My Fair Princess

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"Princess Pearl" redirects here. For the Filipino-American businesswoman, see Pearlasia Gamboa.
This article is about the first two seasons (1998-1999). For the 2003 series, see My Fair Princess III. For the 2011 remake, see New My Fair Princess.
My Fair Princess
Princesspearl1.jpg
Promotional image of the main cast in 1998 (l-r): Back: Su, Fan and Zhou, Front: Zhao, Zhang and Lin
Also known as Princess Returning Pearl
Princess Returned Pearl
Princess Pearl
Princess Huan Zhu
The Return Princess
Return of the Pearl Princess
Traditional
Simplified
Mandarin Huán Zhū Gégé
Cantonese Waan4 Zyu1 Gaak3-Gaak3
Genre costume drama
teen drama
soap opera
comedy-drama
wuxia
historical fiction
Format serial
Created by Chiung Yao
Developed by Chen Chung-wei
Written by Chiung Yao
Directed by Sun Shu-pei
Li Ping (Season 2 only)
Presented by Chiung Yao
Ping Hsin-tao
Ouyang Changlin
Starring Zhao Wei
Ruby Lin
Alec Su
Zhou Jie
Zhang Tielin
Fan Bingbing
Opening theme Season 1: "Dang" (當) performed by Power Station
Season 2: "Zicong You Le Ni" (自從有了你) performed by Zhao Wei
Ending theme Season 1: "Yu die" (雨蝶) performed by Lee E-jun
Season 2:
1. "You Yige Guniang" (有一個姑娘) performed by Zhao Wei
2. "Ni Shi Feng'er Wo Shi Sha" (你是風兒我是沙) performed by Ruby Lin and Zhou Jie
Composer(s) Xu Jingxin
Country of origin China
Taiwan
Original language(s) Mandarin
some Tibetan (Season 1)
some Uyghur (Season 2)
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 24 (Season 1)
48 (Season 2)
Production
Executive producer(s) Chen Tao-lung (Season 1)
Tu Chi-chung (Season 2)
Producer(s) Ping Hsin-tao
Ho Hsiu-chiung
Wei Wenbin
Location(s) Beijing
Chengde Mountain Resort
Bashang Plateau
Running time 48 minutes
Production company(s) Yi Ren Communications Co.
Hunan Broadcasting System
Broadcast
Original channel China Television (Taiwan)
Picture format 576i PAL-D (SDTV)
Original run 28 April 1998 – 25 June 1999
Chronology
Followed by My Fair Princess III (2003)
Related shows New My Fair Princess (2011)

My Fair Princess, also known as Return of the Pearl Princess or Princess Returning Pearl, is a 1998-1999 television costume drama jointly produced by Yi Ren Communications Co. (怡人傳播公司) in Taiwan and Hunan Broadcasting System in Mainland China. Season 1 (1998) was filmed in 1997, and Season 2 (1999) in 1998-1999. Both seasons were filmed in Beijing, Chengde and the Bashang Plateau on the mainland, and first shown on China Television in Taiwan.

Written by creator Chiung Yao, the Cinderella-like story is set in 18th-century Qing dynasty during the Qianlong Emperor's reign. It follows tomboyish and innocent Xiaoyanzi, originally an orphaned and semiliterate vagrant in Beijing who, after befriending the emperor's illegitimate daughter Xia Ziwei, becomes a princess by accident. Although some characters, the plot premise, and certain sections of the story are based on historical events and figures, considerable artistic license was employed.

A massive international hit in East Asia and Southeast Asia, the drama is considered the most commercially successful Chinese-language series in history.[1] Hunan Broadcasting System, having recorded ratings as high as 65% of audience shares, permanently became China's second largest network.[2] Meanwhile, little-known cast members were made household names and huge teen idols over night. The actress trio of Zhao Wei, Ruby Lin and Fan Bingbing, in particular, are still among the biggest stars in Chinese entertainment more than 15 years later.[3]

The first 2 seasons were followed by a sequel, My Fair Princess III, in 2003. A remake, New My Fair Princess, was produced in 2011.

Origin[edit]

After a successful writing career which saw many of her works adapted into films and television, Taiwanese romance novelist Chiung Yao and her husband Ping Hsin-tao established Yi Ren Communications Co. (怡人傳播公司) in 1985 to produce television dramas. (The company later transferred to Chiung Yao's son Chen Chung-wei and daughter-in-law Ho Hsiu-chiung.) In 1987, Taiwan's government allowed visits to Mainland China for the first time since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949. In her first trip in 1988, Chiung Yao became friends with Ouyang Changlin, then a reporter working for Hunan Broadcasting System (HBS), who encouraged her to start producing dramas in Mainland China due to more diverse landscape and cheaper labor cost.[2]

In 1989, Chiung Yao began filming for the first time in Mainland China in Changsha, Hunan, assisted by HBS and Beijing Television (BTV). Most actors, equipment and production crew came from Taiwan, while the Chinese stations produced chiefly cheap labor (such as extra actors) in exchange for broadcasting rights in the mainland.[2] Being the first Taiwanese television production assisted by Mainland stations, the drama Wanjun (婉君) ran into many problems with Taiwan's government. However, as years go by, restrictions in Taiwan became less and Chiung Yao began to use more and more Mainland actors and crew members in her productions, such as director Li Ping. The sophistication and quality of China's television production also improved dramatically in the 1990s during the Chinese economic reform, while the market also began to surpass Taiwan's as the economy became more market-oriented. By 1992, HBS was no longer just a collaborator in Chiung Yao's productions but a financial partner and a co-producer.[2][4]

In 1995, Ouyang became the station head of HBS. As Chiung Yao had an agreement with Taiwan's China Television (CTV) to produce 2 dramas for CTV for 1998, Ouyang and Chiung Yao decided to produce them together. The first drama, Tears in Heaven (蒼天有淚), featured a more established cast of Jiang Qinqin, Vincent Chiao, Athena Chu, Chen Chao-jung and Deng Jie and was anticipated to be more successful, drawing considerable resources from the companies. The second drama of the year was thus left with a limited budget.[5]

In 1997, during a tour of Beijing, Chiung Yao passed Gongzhufen (literally "Princess's Tomb"). She was told of the story behind the place: according to popular legends, the Qianlong Emperor had adopted a daughter from the commoners population; she was buried there alone as she was not deemed fit to be buried with the other Manchu princesses. Nothing else was known about her.[6] From this legend, Chiung Yao decided to write My Fair Princess as the second drama series.

Cast and characters[edit]

  • Zhao Wei as Xiaoyanzi
  • Ruby Lin as Xia Ziwei and Xia Yuhe (Season 1)
  • Alec Su as Yongqi
  • Zhou Jie as Fu Erkang
  • Zhang Tielin as Qianlong Emperor
  • Fan Bingbing as Jinsuo
  • Dai Chunrong as the empress
  • Zhao Lijuan as Consort Ling
  • Li Mingqi as Wet-Nurse Rong
  • Lu Shiyu as Liu Qing
  • Chen Ying as Liu Hong
  • Wen Haibo as Fu Lun
  • Liu Fang as Fu Lun's wife
  • Xue Yan as Xiaodengzi
  • Li Nan (Season 1) as Xiaozhuozi
    • Liu Wei (Season 2) as Xiaozhuozi
  • Yu Mengjie as Mingyue
  • Liu Fangyu (Season 1) as Caixia
    • Li Bingqiao (Season 2) as Caixia
  • Julian Chen as Fu Ertai (Season 1)
  • Zhang Heng as Princess Saiya (Season 1)
  • Liu Dan as Ji Xiaolan (Season 1)
  • Zhang Wei as Fu Heng (Season 1)
  • You Long as E Min (Season 1)
  • Liu Wei as Liang Tinggui (Season 1)
  • Wang Yi as Baleben (Season 1)
  • Miao Haojun as Sai Wei (Season 1)
  • Zhu Jinglong as Sai Guang (Season 1)
  • Ai Yang as Dongxue (Season 1)
  • Dong Wei as Lamei (Season 1)
  • Yang Dong as Cailian (Season 1)
  • Zheng Jiaxin as Du Ruolan (Season 1)
  • Zhao Minfen as the empress dowager (Season 2)
  • Wang Yan as Qing'er (Season 2)
  • Liu Dan as Hanxiang (Season 2)
  • Zhu Hongjia as Xiao Jian (Season 2)
  • Mou Fengbin as Mengdan (Merdan) (Season 2)
  • Chen Yifang as Weina (Season 2)
  • Zhong Xiaodan as Jina (Season 2)
  • Yin Wei as Ali Hezhuo (Ali Khoja) (Season 2)
  • Xu Fulai as Shop-Owner Du (Season 2)
  • Wang Hong as Shop-Owner Du's wife (Season 2)
  • Hu Yasi as Xiaogezi (Season 2)
  • Zhai Yuerong as Wet-Nurse Gui (Season 2)

Casting[edit]

In the mid-1990s, Taiwanese agent Lee Ching-ping was in Beijing scouting for prospective local actors when a referrer sent her a tape of the obscure 1995 Chinese drama Adventures of Sisters in Beijing (姐姐妹妹闯北京). The recommended actress left little impression, but a supporting actress "with big eyes" caught Lee's attention. Eventually Lee located that actress, Zhao Wei (Vicki Zhao), who in 1997 was a 21-year-old freshman in the Performing Institute of Beijing Film Academy. Chiung Yao was also impressed by Zhao's acting and decided to cast her in the major role of Xia Ziwei, after reaching an agreement with her school.[7]

Taiwanese actress Lee Ting-yi was originally chosen to portray the titular character Xiaoyanzi.[8] However, about a week before filming was to begin, the producers learned that she could not participate due to schedule conflicts with a film of hers. Since there was little time left, the company wanted to know whether Zhao, already provided with the script and asked to memorize Ziwei's lines, would be willing to portray Xiaoyanzi instead. As Lee Ching-ping remembered in 2007:[7]

I quite nervously called her and tried to soften my words, I was thinking, how do I make her receptive and not hurt her (feelings)?... Once (I) finished, she screamed. I thought she was upset, so I asked her, "what's wrong?" She said, "(I'm) ecstatic!" As soon as she started reading the script, she fell in love with that character (Xiaoyanzi). But she had been afraid to mention it, probably embarrassed as well, (as) she was still a student.

Other reshuffling was also in order. After considering 15-year-old Fan Bingbing (eventually cast as Jinsuo),[9] the company settled on 21-year-old Ruby Lin, originally cast as Princess Saiya, to portray Ziwei. (Zhao's classmate in Beijing Film Academy, Zhang Heng, became Saiya.) Lin had just signed with Chiung Yao's company and was better known—though by no means famous—in her native Taiwan. However, after a few days of filming, sponsors did not find her beautiful and wanted her replaced. Her return flight to Taiwan was bought and her replacement had arrived on the set. (The actress set to replace her, Zheng Zefan or Zheng Jiaxin, was also Zhao's classmate. She was eventually cast as the minor character Du Ruolan.) With the Taiwanese director Sun Shu-pei predicting "Ruby Lin will be very popular one day" and insisting on keeping her,[5] Lin was at the end allowed to stay, but those difficult days drew her closer to Zhao, who took her around in Beijing in an effort to cheer her up.[10][11][12]

Former boy band members Alec Su (Yongqi) and Julian Chen (Fu Ertai) of the disbanded The Little Tigers[note 1]—neither with much acting experience—and Zhang Tielin (Qianlong Emperor) were the only notable cast members. Due to budget limitations, many cast members were film school students, like Zhao and her classmates. Even the older actors had limited television experiences; for example Zhou Jie (Fu Erkang) was a stage actor under the National Theatre Company of China, while Dai Chunrong (the empress) was a qinqiang actress.[note 2]

Filming[edit]

This tower in Chengde Mountain Resort, Chengde, Hebei was used as a substitute of Shufangzhai (漱芳齋). The real Shufangzhai is in the Forbidden City, Beijing, but the crew could not afford to film there.

Filming began on 18 July 1997 in Beijing. Unable to afford the cost of filming inside the Forbidden City, most scenes were shot in Chengde Mountain Resort, Chengde, Hebei as well as several locations in Beijing: Prince Gong Mansion, Beijing Grand View Garden, Miniature Garden of Old Beijing, and Beijing Film Studio. Sun Shu-pei remembered being jealous of the large-budget Yongzheng Dynasty, filming next to them in Chengde.[5] To save cost, all jewelries used were made of plastic, and Zhao Wei developed an infection from reaction to the plastic earrings.

Not only did cast members all make less than ¥48,000[5] (roughly $5800 in 1997[13]) for 5 months[14] of filming,[note 3] they were also subjected to extremely long working hours. According to Sun, "the actors normally got up at night to do makeups and apply costumes, and film all the way until it was too dark to see. Sometimes they could not sleep at all."[5] Zhang Tielin estimated "two to three hours" of sleep each night and recalled Zhao and Lin stumbling downstairs in each other's arms half-asleep, tripping and sliding to the bottom of a car as they tried to enter it in frigid weather, and sleeping on a narrow bench together at the set.[15] Zhao remembered throwing up from exhaustion.[16] Despite frequently having to get up at 3:30 AM, none of the young actors waited until arriving at the set to start memorizing lines, according to Li Mingqi (Wet-Nurse Rong), the oldest actor:[17][18]

I believe because they respected Chiung Yao a lot, they worked extremely hard. All of them being able to endure so much hardship, they really earned my admiration. I feel all of the [fame and riches] they later received, they deserved them. The hardship these kids endured when they shot My Fair Princess was indescribable with words, it was too much.

Season 2 began filming on 15 September 1998 with a much larger budget, owing to the unexpected success of Season 1. In addition to Season 1 locations, Season 2 was also filmed in Kangxi Grassland, Xiangshan Park, Workers Cultural Palace and Mei Lanfang's former residence (all in Beijing).[5]

Unlike the "neglected" Season 1 where not a single outsider showed up to watch the filming,[9] Season 2's filming was extensively covered by the media.[5] Every morning, leaving the hotel was difficult for the cast members, as it was filled with fans, many from out of town.[2] Describing the madness, Fan Bingbing wrote in 2004:[9]

Normally 1,000 or 2,000 people would gather in front of the Beijing Film Studio to ask for our signatures. From winter to summer, there would always be huge crowds surrounding the shooting area of the set. I would hear people yell out my name, "Fan Bingbing, Fan Bingbing..." When it was time to go to the W.C., five or six staff members had to escort us.

Plot[edit]

Season 1 (1998)[edit]

In the year 1759, 17-year-old[note 4] Xia Ziwei and her maid Jinsuo travel from Jinan to the Qing Empire capital Beijing, in an effort to meet her father, the Qianlong Emperor, for the first time. Qianlong Emperor had a relationship with her mother Xia Yuhe during a trip to Daming Lake, Jinan 18 years ago, and Xia Yuhe had held the secret away from Ziwei until her recent death, before which she told Ziwei to seek her father. Unable to enter the Forbidden City, Ziwei and Jinsuo meet adventuress Xiaoyanzi, also 17, at a wedding. An orphan since a young age, Xiaoyanzi lives with siblings Liu Qing and Liu Hong in a dazayuan (residential compound). The two girls become sworn sisters, and Ziwei informs Xiaoyanzi of her mission.

Xiaoyanzi and Ziwei decide that going to the mountains during the emperor's hunting trip offers the best chance to meet him. As the climb proves too difficult for the frail Ziwei and Jinsuo, Ziwei gives Xiaoyanzi her mother's fan and painting, both gifts from the emperor, and sends Xiaoyanzi as her messenger. Xiaoyanzi successfully reaches the hunting grounds but is seriously wounded with an arrow by Yongqi, Qianlong Emperor's 5th son, during the hunt. Qianlong Emperor recognizes her items and mistakes the unconscious Xiaoyanzi for his and Xia Yuhe's daughter. Once Xiaoyanzi wakes up and recovers, she is given the title "Princess Huanzhu" ("Princess Returning Pearl"). Attempts to reveal the truth go unsuccessfully, and she also realizes that she may be charged with deceiving the emperor — an automatic death sentence — if the truth comes out.

One day, Ziwei sees Xiaoyanzi parading the streets in a sedan chair as a princess and believes Xiaoyanzi has deceived her. She chases after the sedan chair, causing a commotion, and gets beaten by soldiers. Fu Erkang, one of the emperor's bodyguards, rescues her and learns of her story. Afterwards, Ziwei and Jinsuo begin to live at the Fu household as Erkang and Ziwei gradually begin to fall in love.

Meanwhile, Yongqi, Fu Erkang and his brother Fu Ertai sneak Xiaoyanzi out of the Forbidden City to reunite her with Ziwei, who kindly forgives her. Not wanting to risk Xiaoyanzi's life, Ziwei is willing to keep the secret and give up claims to princess. However, as Erkang is the son of minister Fu Lun, they cannot marry as long as she is only a commoner. The gang decide the best way to reveal the secret to the emperor is to bring Ziwei and Jinsuo into the Forbidden City as imperial maids. In the palaces, Ziwei quickly attracts the emperor's attention with her talents, intelligence, and compassion. This arouses the jealousy of the empress, who secretly has her stabbed with needles at the Palace of Earthly Tranquility. Ziwei nearly dies but is rescued by her friends. Qianlong Emperor becomes more impressed with Ziwei after this incident, and decides to take her as well as Xiaoyanzi and Yongqi on a private trip outside of Beijing, dressed as civilians.

During the trip, feelings between Xiaoyanzi and Yongqi, who is aware that she is not his sister, begin to rise. The trip is abruptly ended when a group of Dacheng Jiao sect members try to assassinate the emperor. Ziwei bravely shields the emperor from a knife before the assassins are all obliterated. Ziwei miraculously survives the stabbing, and the emperor decides to marry Ziwei as his concubine.

Meanwhile, Princess Saiya from Tibet has arrived in Beijing. She develops a crush on Erkang, and Qianlong Emperor decides to approve their marriage. As Ziwei and Erkang are deeply in love by this point, the gang decide to finally reveal Ziwei's secret. The emperor is shocked by the possibility that the girl he wanted to marry is in fact his daughter, and particularly angry that Xiaoyanzi and Ziwei, two girls he trust the most, have tricked him. Xiaoyanzi, Ziwei and Jinsuo are all imprisoned at the Imperial Clan Court to await interrogations.

On orders of the empress, Liang Tinggui, the man in charge of the Imperial Clan Court, tries to force the girls to sign a statement that their intentions were to murder the emperor. When they refuse, the trio are whipped harshly. Knowing that the three cannot survive long in such conditions, Yongqi, Erkang, Ertai and the Liu siblings risk their lives and break into the jail to free the girls. At the same time, Qianlong Emperor realizes how much he loves Xiaoyanzi and Ziwei and decides to release them, but is furious after discovering that they had already escaped.

After briefly on the run, the friends decide to return to the Forbidden City. Despite his original intention to behead them all, Qianlong Emperor is heartbroken to learn that the three girls were tortured in prison. He forgives all of them, beheads Liang Tinggui, and accepts both Ziwei and Xiaoyanzi as his daughters. He also orders the empress to be punished but relents after Ziwei pleads mercy on her behalf.

The last obstacle, the marriage proposal between Saiya and Erkang, is solved when Ertai courts Saiya and successfully wins her heart. The story concludes with a ceremony, during which Ziwei is proclaimed "Princess Mingzhu" ("Princess Bright Pearl"), and Qianlong Emperor announcing the engagements between Xiaoyanzi and Yongqi, Ziwei and Erkang, and Ertai and Saiya.

Season 2 (1999)[edit]

In the year 1760, the Uyghur leader Ali Khoja sent his daughter Hanxiang to become a concubine for the Qianlong Emperor. Hanxiang was born with a natural scent that attracts butterflies. She has long loved another man, Mengdan, whom she had unsuccessfully eloped with several times.

Xiaoyanzi, Ziwei, Yongqi, and Erkang meet Mengdan at the restaurant and hotel recently opened by Liu Qing and Liu Hong. There, they learned of the love story of Mengdan and Hanxiang. Ultimately, they decide to help Hanxiang escape the Forbidden City and escape with Mengdan.

With the empress dowager returning to the palace, the empress and Wet-Nurse Rong plot against Xiaoyanzi and Ziwei creating tension between them and empress dowager by continuously pointing out the imperfections of the two. The empress dowager, being extremely traditional, takes an immediate disliking to Xiaoyanzi's lack of education and proper manners, while being extremely suspicious and dislikes to acknowledge Ziwei's status as her grand daughter as it is unclear if she is actually Qianlong's illegitimate child. Ziwei also had a near death experience at the torture of empress dowager after being accused of plotting to kill Qianlong after the empress had a voodoo type doll planted in her bedroom. Qing'er, Qianlong's niece and a favorite companion of empress dowager, ultimately figures out the doll could not have been made by Ziwei or Xiaoyanzi. Xiaoyanzi also temporarily escapes the palace where she is kept as a slave at in a Chess shop because she could not take the rigid rules and Yongqi repeatedly emphasizing the need to be more educated. She mistakes his good intentions as him being ashamed of her when he has all along loved her for who she is. Yongqi does this at the insistence of Qianlong as empress dowager has repeatedly threatened to end both Yongqi's and Erkang's respective engagement as she believed that Xiaoyanzi is not good enough to be Yongqi's wife and that Erkang is better paired with her favorite Qing'er, who is without doubt of royal descent. After Xiaoyanzi's return, Yongqi and the others plead to empress dowager to accept Xiaoyanzi for who she is and to not force the rigid rules on her for she can never meet the empress dowager's expectations for she is not a real Princess. The empress dowager has no choice but to accept their engagement after Yongqi and Erkang both reveal that they would rather live as a commoner with Xiaoyanzi and Ziwei than remain as a Prince and a royal imperial guard.

Qing'er serves as a rival love interest between Erkang and Ziwei at empress dowager's insistence but despite Qing'er's actual feelings for Erkang, she does not want to get involved between Erkang and Ziwei after realizing that he would never be able to love her as well. She becomes good friends with Ziwei and ultimately helps Ziwei and Xiaoyanzi out of trouble when the empress dowager is furious at them for their various actions that does not meet in accordance with proper lady like manners.

After several attempts to resist Qianlong who was trying to force himself on her, Hanxiang accidentally cuts Emperor Qianlong's arm. When the empress dowager finds out about this, she secretly forces Hanxiang to drink poison as punishment. Xiaoyanzi, Yongqi, Ziwei, Jinsuo, and Erkang rush back but were not able to make it in time. Hanxiang is said to have died. Before she "dies", the aroma emitting from her body strengthens and tens of hundreds of butterflies fly to her side and circle the room. They leave and so does the aroma. In the end, Hanxiang is saved by the repeated attempts from Xiaoyanzi. She is ultimately saved by eating the life-saving medicine that her father gave her, in the case of an emergency. After this affair, Hanxiang loses her scent.

After Hanxiang's escape, the group lies to Qianlong that Hanxiang had turned into a butterfly and flew away. As a result of Wet-Nurse Rong and the empress plotting against Xiaoyanzi and Ziwei, they are subjected to torture at the hands of empress dowager and ultimately renounces Ziwei's identity as a Princess because of the empress paying off her aunt and uncle to create a story to deny her birthday, making it incompatible with the year Qianlong supposedly met Ziwei's mother. When Qianlong finds out the truth, he sends the five to jail. Yongqi escapes after pretends that he is sick. He later sentences Xiaoyanzi and Ziwei to death. Jinsuo sent to other country as a forced labor, while Erkang imprisoned for 15 years and his titles annulled. However, they eventually escape with help from their friends, especially Qing'er and Consort Ling. They decide to leave the Forbidden City permanently and travel to Dali. They are temporarily reunited with Mengdan and Hanxiang and witness their marital union before ultimately traveling to Dali separately. This is the last time these two characters appear in the series.

On the trip, they encounter many incidences where they lend a hand to save the weak such as stepping in to prevent the burning at the stake of a local girl who was impregnated out of wedlock and saved her life. On the road they encounter Qianlong's men who were intent on capturing them alive and to not hurt them at Qianlong's orders. Xiaoyanzi and Jinsuo were captured and taken away separately while Ziwei falls out of the carriage and temporarily loses her eyesight. Xiao Jian and Yongqi rescue Xiaoyanzi and are horrified to find a reclusive, terrified, and blind Ziwei while keeping the emotionally strained Erkang at arms length after being afraid of becoming a permanent burden to him. At Erkang's insistence and reassurance, Ziwei finally accepts the reality that she may be permanently blind and that she can still live a fulfilling life with him by her side. The five of them travel together to the next city while leaving behind markers for Liu Qing, Liu Hong, and Jinsuo as they search for doctors able to cure Ziwei's blindness. Erkang leaves Ziwei in the care of Xiaoyanzi temporarily as he goes on to ask for directions to the next doctor, Xiaoyanzi becomes preoccupied with a game of Chess going on at a nearby table in the middle of the street and completely forgets about the blind Ziwei. As a result, Ziwei is taken by a local thug and is sold to a local brothel while a frantic Erkang and a deeply repentant Xiaoyanzi search the streets. Ziwei is ultimately found with the help of Xiao Jian's connections in the city and was able to save herself with the threat of suicide as Erkang saves her just in time. Erkang forgives Xiaoyanzi at Ziwei's insistence and they are finally reunited with Jinsuo, Liu Qing and Liu Hong. Liu Qing and Liu Hong had traveled to rescue Jinsuo and ultimately hide in a rural village where Jinsuo was to recover from her injuries. Jinsuo and Liu Qing fall in love as he takes care of her and are later married after being reunited with the group.

Throughout this time, Qianlong realizes that he truly misses the presence of Xiaoyanzi and Ziwei and he reveals to Consort Ling that him sentencing them to death was ultimately out of pure rage and that in the end, Xiaoyanzi and Ziwei would indeed ultimately be spared had Erkang and Yongqi not rescued them. The group continues to run for their life as they mistake Qianlong's men as assassins when they were really sent on the orders of the empress. Erkang and Yongqi are hurt and Ziwei miraculously recovers her sight after being terrified at Erkang's near-death experience. Qianlong is horrified as he receives reports of Erkang and Yongqi getting hurt in the subsequent fights and Ziwei's blindness and finally sends Fulun to contact them as Erkang would ultimately listen to his father and believe that Qianlong has finally forgiven them and would like their safe return.

Along the way, they discover that the mysterious guy they met at Liu Qing and Liu Hong's restaurant who has helped them throughout this whole fugitive stage, Xiao Jian, is actually Xiaoyanzi's long lost brother after Yongqi's jealousy at his kindness to Xiaoyanzi becomes too overbearing as he mistakes it as him trying to steal Xiaoyanzi away. Xiaoyanzi and Yongqi had repeatedly argued throughout this time as Xiaoyanzi firmly believes that Yongqi was still hung up on being a Prince and could not accept her commoner ways while Yongqi would disagree with her actions and decisions. It is later revealed to Erkang that the reason Xiaoyanzi is an orphan is because of Qianlong. Xiaoyanzi's father was rallying against the government and later their whole family was sentenced to death as a result. In order to save Xiao Jian and Xiaoyanzi, they were sent away separately. Xiao Jian ultimately decides against revealing the truth to Xiaoyanzi and to give up the act of revenge at Erkang's insistence to preserve Xiaoyanzi's upbeat happiness, and to have Qianlong continue to love and adore her as his own daughter for she has always desired the love of a father.

After Fulun finds the group, they believe that Qianlong has forgiven them but unanimously decide to not return as their feelings towards Qianlong and the Forbidden City have changed. They desire the carefree life of commoners without the rigid rules and chaos that surrounded their life while living in the Forbidden City where Xiaoyanzi and Ziwei were particularly susceptible to punishment. In the end, the Emperor travels himself to convince them to return to the Forbidden City as he does not care if they helped Hanxiang escape, or if Ziwei is actually his daughter. There, he awards both Ziwei and Xiaoyanzi with a gold insignia. Each one can excuse them from 3 executions. The empress dowager ultimately forgives Ziwei and Xiaoyanzi at the insistence of Qianlong and acknowledges them as her granddaughters. Qianlong and the empress dowager later discover the empress had been plotting against Xiaoyanzi and Ziwei sending assassins to kill them along with Erkang and Yongqi disguising it as the command of Qianlong. Qianlong is furious and commands both the empress and her maidservant, Wet-Nurse Rong, to be beheaded. However, Ziwei pulls out her gold insignia and uses up two pardons: one for Wet-Nurse Rong and one for the empress.

Because of this affair, Wet-Nurse Rong and the empress both grow appreciative of Ziwei and Xiaoyanzi. Afterwards, Xiaoyanzi and Yongqi, along with Ziwei and Erkang, are finally married.

Soundtrack[edit]

No. Title Music Artist Length
1. "當" (Dāng, "When") Chuang Li-fan, Kuo Wen-tsung Power Station 04:47
2. "雨蝶" (Yǔ dié, "Rain Butterfly") Phil Chang Lee E-jun 03:50
3. "今天天氣好晴朗" (Jīntiān tiānqì hǎo qínglǎng, "Today's Weather is So Sunny") Xu Jingxin Fang Qiong 01:53
4. "山水迢迢" (Shānshuǐ tiáotiáo, "Distance Between Mountains and Waters") Xu Jingxin Fang Qiong 03:00
5. "長相憶" (Chángxiàng yì, "Deep Longing") Xu Jingxin Fang Qiong 03:02
6. "自從有了你" (Zìcóng yǒu le nǐ, "Ever Since I Had You") Tso Hung-yuen, Lu Cheng-huang Zhao Wei 03:26
7. "有一個姑娘" (Yǒu yī gè gūniang, "There Is a Girl") Lee Cheng-fan Zhao Wei 03:33
8. "不能和你分手" (Bùnéng hé nǐ fēnshǒu, "Can't Break Up with You") Tso Hung-yuen, Lu Cheng-huang Zhao Wei 04:34
9. "我們" (Wǒmen, "Us") Lu Cheng-huang Zhao Wei 04:00
10. "你是風兒我是沙" (Nǐ shì fēng er wǒ shì shā, "You're Wind, I'm Sand") Lu Cheng-huang Ruby Lin, Zhou Jie 04:42
11. "夢裡" (Mèng li, "In Dreams") Lee Cheng-fan Ruby Lin, Zhou Jie 04:52

The first 5 tracks are from Season 1.

All lyrics were written by Chiung Yao, although Hsu Chang-te helped with the lyrics of Track 2. The lyrics for tracks 1 and 8 are the same and based on a few lines in a Han dynasty yuefu love poem, the content of which was featured prominently in Ziwei and Erkang's romance (translation by Ma Xiaodong[19]):

山無陵 Till mountains are leveled to the ground,
江水為竭 Rivers dry up,
冬雷震震 Thunder reverberates in winter,
夏雨雪 Snow falls in summer,
天地合 The sky and the earth become one,
乃敢與君絕 Only then will I dare part with you!

Ruby Lin had also covered Track 2 in a recording.

Track 7 by Zhao Wei won bronze prize for "Outstanding Mandarin Song" at the 1999 RTHK Top 10 Gold Songs Awards. Tracks 6, 7 and 8 were also included in Zhao's debut album Swallow (1999).

Most songs were covered in Vietnamese. Yến Khoa had an entire cover album Hoàng Châu Cát Cát (2001), which includes "Tình Hồng Như Mơ" (cover of Track 8), "Khi Có Em Trong Đời" (cover of Track 6), "Em Như Nụ Hồng" (cover of Track 7), "Phiêu Du Giữa Đời" (cover of Track 9) and "Gió Cuốn Bụi Bay" (cover of Track 10). Other Vietnamese covers include Đan Trường's "Hoài Niệm Cũ" (cover of Track 1), Đan Trường & Cẩm Ly's "Tình Hồng Như Mơ" (cover of Track 11), Tú Quyên's "Trong Em Tình Vẫn Sáng" (cover of Track 2), and Hoàng Châu's "Đời Em Là Cánh Bướm" (also cover of Track 2).

Reception[edit]

Ratings[edit]

Taiwan's China Television (CTV), which had a prior agreement with Chiung Yao's company, was the first channel to broadcast Season 1 from 28 April to 29 May 1998. Average rating was very high at 12.1%, with the highest rating reaching 17%, prompting CTV to rerun it immediately afterwards on 1 June, which again "easily" topped the ratings charts. Zhao Wei, who went back to study at the Beijing Film Academy, remembered the first sign that her life might change was receiving "rooms upon rooms" of letters from Taiwan in her school dormitory.[10] (After it was later broadcast in mainland China, Zhao would receive in total over 100,000 letters, sometimes 1,000 in a day.[20]) On 18 March 1999, CTV broadcast Season 1 the third time in less than a year, and again it "unbelievably" topped the ratings at 5.6%. Season 1 brought NT$ 70 million to the station.[21] The much longer Season 2 was then broadcast right afterwards from 21 April to 25 June 1999 and reran immediately, continuing the "My Fair Princess" fever nonstop from March until 13 December 1999.[22] Average ratings for Season 2 was 13.68%, the highest ratings in Taiwan since 1996 and not surpassed by all future series.[23]

In Mainland China, HBS initially had problems selling its broadcasting rights. Some stations had doubts on whether it would be successful since it was too different from the typical Chiung Yao tearjerkers.[2] When it was finally broadcast first on Beijing Television (BTV) in the Beijing area, average audience share was 44%. On HBS's own Hunan Television (HNTV) in Hunan it reached 54%. After it was rerun 2 months later, ratings were still No. 1 at 26.7%.[24] Season 2, first broadcast in June 1999 just like in Taiwan, averaged more than 50% across the board, reaching as high as 65% on HNTV.[14] These numbers have never been challenged since.[25] Commercial returns were immense; copyrights in Mainland China were sold for ¥390,000/episode for Season 1 and ¥545,000/episode for Season 2.[2] BTV earned over ¥ 25 million from Season 2 commercials, whereas Shanghai Television (SHTV), with average ratings of 55% in Shanghai for Season 2, made over ¥ 40 million.[14] (In comparison, all actors made less than ¥2,000/episode for Season 1.) Even in the 2010s, reruns on HNTV would still finish at the top of national ratings.[26][27][28]

In Hong Kong, Asia Television (ATV) relied on the series to beat rival TVB in prime time for the first time in history, with 58% of the audience share for the Season 2 finale in 1999.[29]

In Mongolia, ratings were so high that distributors showed the last 3 episodes of Season 1 in movie theaters.[5]

In South Korea, it became an unexpected hit on the small Gyeongin Television, achieving 4% at the Seoul National Capital Area according to Nielsen Korea.[30] Many Korean fans started to study Chinese.[31][32]

The series was also highly popular in many Southeast Asia countries. Zhao Wei and Ruby Lin went to Ho Chi Minh City together in February 2001 where they visited an SOS Children's Village and sang at the "Xuân 2001" ("Spring 2001") concert. Hounded by enthusiastic fans everywhere, they were stranded in the hotel and had to give up shopping plans.[33][34]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Event Category Recipient(s) Result
1999 17th Golden Eagle Awards Best Television Series Season 1 Won
Best Actress Zhao Wei Won

Zhao Wei was at the time the youngest Best Actress winner in Golden Eagle Awards history.

Criticism[edit]

The series was blamed for many unfortunate incidents ranging from multiple television set explosions (due to overuse)[35][36][37] to at least 6 accidental deaths of Chinese children trying to imitate Xiaoyanzi's fake hanging suicide attempt.[38] In March 1999, a young girl left home intending to go to Zhao Wei's hometown Wuhu to meet "Xiaoyanzi", worrying her parents to death.[39] Some people called for "responsible media" to report more negative news on Zhao, in order to curb the out-of-control celebrity worship syndrome epidemic. Many parents and teachers were also concerned with the characterization of Xiaoyanzi, finding the character without education, moderation, discipline and manners, and a bad influence on children.[40] In September 1999, a man sued Chiung Yao, Hunan Television, Hunan Broadcasting System and his local Zhejiang Television for ¥80 million for what he believed mental anguish to his family from watching the drama, calling Xiaoyanzi a "psychiatric patient" who had caused "extremely serious consequences" to "countless minors" who "liked, worshiped, studied and imitated" her, demanding an immediate halt on everything related to the show, including merchandise.[41] Though the case was not accepted, his opinion was echoed by Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference member Wei Minglun (魏明伦), who in 2002 proposed measures to prevent "rogue" characters like Xiaoyanzi from being idolized by the younger generation.[42]

Also under attack was the drama's completely inaccurate portrayal of the Qing dynasty history. In 2000, Qianlong Emperor's 7th-generation descendant Yu Ziwei (毓紫薇) published a letter to Chiung Yao criticizing the story as irresponsible to the Aisin Gioro clan, also claiming that the drama significantly disturbed her life because of her name "Ziwei".[43]

International broadcast[edit]

Premier year refers to Season 1.

Country Network Premiere Title
 Cambodia ព្រះនាងយេយេ (Preah Neang Ye Ye)
 China HBS 1998 还珠格格 (Huan Zhu Ge Ge)
 Hong Kong ATV 1999 還珠格格 (Waan Jyu Gaak Gaak)
 Indonesia Indosiar 1999 Putri Huan Zhu
 Japan Sun TV 2008 還珠姫 〜プリンセスのつくりかた〜 (Kanju Hime ~Purinsesu no Tsukuri Kata~)
 Macau 還珠格格 (Waan Jyu Gaak Gaak)
 Malaysia NTV7 1999 還珠格格 (Waan Jyu Gaak Gaak)
 Mongolia Хуанжу Гэг (Khuanju Geg)
 Philippines QTV 2008 My Fair Princess
 Singapore VV Drama 1999 还珠格格 (Huan Zhu Ge Ge)
 South Korea Gyeongin TV 2000 황제의 딸 (Hwangje-ui Ttal; "Emperor's Daughter")
 Taiwan CTV 1998 還珠格格 (Huan Zhu Ge Ge)
 Thailand Channel 3 1999 องค์หญิงกำมะลอ (Xngkh̒ h̄ỵing kảmalx)
 Vietnam VTV 1999 Hoàn Châu Công Chúa

English version[edit]

After a year of work, the English version of Season 1 has been fully dubbed at the Bang Zoom! Entertainment studio under director Wendee Lee in 2013. It is scheduled to be released by Rock Motion Picture Voice-Over Distribution Company. Xiaoyanzi ("Swallow") was translated as "Sparrow" while Ziwei ("Myrtle") was translated as "Rose".[44][45]

Voice actors:

Conan O'Brien and Andy Richter also stopped by the studio for satirical dubbing on some scenes, the result of which being aired on Conan in 2013.[46] (They were hardly the first Westerners to do comedic dubbing on the drama, as a German company Mez-Technik had already done so in a 2007 ad, dubbing a clip from Season 2 using Swabian German.[47])

My Fair Princess III (2003)[edit]

Further information: My Fair Princess III

While the first two seasons featured almost the same cast, most cast members declined the offer to star in another sequel. The Season 3 script was also delayed for a year because of Chiung Yao's personal matters. When it was finally ready, almost 4 years later, Zhao, Lin and Su (who had shot another Chiung Yao series together in Romance in the Rain) were in the process of filming other projects and could not participate. Zhou Jie was the only returning main actor.

Remakes[edit]

Hoàng Châu Các Các (2002)[edit]

Cải lương actress Ngọc Huyền, who portrayed a character based on Xiaoyanzi.

In Vietnam, Season 1 was adapted into a 20-episode cải lương series titled Hoàng Châu Các Các, starring Phương Mai and Vũ Linh.[48]

Cast:

  • Phượng Mai as Phụng Tử Uyên (based on Xia Ziwei)
  • Vũ Linh as Vĩ Lâm (based on Fu Erkang)
  • Kim Tử Long as Vĩnh Kỳ (Yongqi)
  • Ngọc Huyền as Tiểu Mỹ Nữ (based on Xiaoyanzi)
  • Thanh Tòng as King Thanh (based on Qianlong Emperor)
  • Thanh Hằng as the empress
  • Hồng Nga as the wet nurse (based on Wet Nurse Rong)
  • Vân Hà as Xuyên Hỉ (based on Jinsuo)
  • Ngân Tuấn as Vĩ Tú (based on Fu Ertai)
  • Kim Thoa as Consort Huệ (based on Consort Ling)
  • Trinh Trinh as Princess Tái Á (Princess Saiya)

Waan Jyu Gaak Gaak Bei Hei Cung Fung (2004)[edit]

Season 1 was adapted into a Cantonese opera titled Waan Jyu Gaak Gaak Bei Hei Cung Fung (還珠格格悲喜重逢), with Ye Youqi portraying Xiaoyanzi (Siu-yin-ji) and Jiang Wenduan portraying Xia Ziwei (Ha Ji-mei). The VCD was released in 2004.[49]

New My Fair Princess (2011)[edit]

Further information: New My Fair Princess

A 98-episode remake of the first series was filmed in June 2010, and aired in 2011.[50] Akin to the old version, the remake had 3 parts, but had more comedic elements than the original.[51] After airing in China, both critics and audiences have expressed disappointments with the casting and the script.[52]

The viewership was also much lower compared to the old version. Ratings for the remake version was 1.5% in mainland china, which was average for a Hunan Television show. In Taiwan, the rating was 0.7%, not only ranking last, but also the worst rating of a Chiung Yao television series in decades.[53][54]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The third member of The Little Tigers, Nicky Wu was considered for the role of Fu Erkang, but he had to serve in the ROC military.
  2. ^ Before My Fair Princess, Dai Chunrong only acted in 1 TV series, The Flying Swallow of the Han Palace (漢宮飛燕), where she also portrayed an empress married to and ignored by Zhang Tielin's emperor. Because of that experience, Zhang recommended her to the My Fair Princess producers. Interestingly, she and Zhang would later become known as "the empress specialist" and "the emperor specialist" respectively for frequently appearing as these characters on Chinese television.
  3. ^ Season 1 had 24 episodes. Fan Bingbing, for example, made ¥1,000 per episode.[9]
  4. ^ In East Asian age reckoning, 18 years old is closer to 16 or 17 in the Western age reckoning.

References[edit]

  1. ^ 瓊瑤電視戲劇風格的蛻變:《還珠格格》 ― 一個類型(genre)的分析
  2. ^ a b c d e f g 湖南制造(图)
  3. ^ 赵薇林心如范冰冰 看“还珠三姐妹”在娱乐圈的惊人实力
  4. ^ 檢視/開啟 - 國立臺灣師範大學
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h 还珠十年(图)
  6. ^ 公主坟琐记(下)
  7. ^ a b 访谈:赵薇靠500万发迹纯造谣 李静平指遭陷害
  8. ^ 孙树培:演员做人很重要 对角色的选择也很重要
  9. ^ a b c d 《情人范冰冰》
  10. ^ a b 赵薇:演《还珠格格》时差点换掉林心如
  11. ^ 林心如直面绯闻:退出演艺圈前不会结婚
  12. ^ 林心如曝还珠交恶内幕 不提周杰恳请放过赵薇(图)
  13. ^ Currency Converter
  14. ^ a b c 电视剧《还珠格格》市场化运作始末
  15. ^ 张铁林贺赵薇获影后 曝其曾与林心如冬天睡冷板凳
  16. ^ Beyond Cute by Richard Corliss; Monday, Mar. 22, 2004 - Time Magazine
  17. ^ 李明启回忆拍《还珠》细节:赵薇拍打戏太苦
  18. ^ 容嬷嬷李明启专访:林心如赵薇拍戏刻苦
  19. ^ 马晓东《风骚国度》,外语教学与研究出版社, 2005
  20. ^ 追星與粉絲: 青少年偶像崇拜探析 By 岳曉東 p.224
  21. ^ "還珠奇蹟 三播又稱冠 格格也稱奇 中視淨賺七千萬". Liberty Times. 20 March 1999. 
  22. ^ 無線電視節目庫結果頁
  23. ^ "意難忘 歡慶收視率破10". Min Sheng Bao. 16 June 2005. 
  24. ^ 重播依然成热点 《还珠格格》收视仍占鳌头
  25. ^ "《还珠格格》重拍变80集 郑爽或将出演小燕子". Sohu. 24 September 2009. Retrieved 27 June 2010. 
  26. ^ 湖南卫视开年虎虎生威 丑女元宵晚会好戏连台
  27. ^ 经典老剧何以成电视台救命稻草
  28. ^ 湖南卫视第13次播《还珠格格》 收视率竟然夺冠
  29. ^ "格格風摧毀慣性收視 亞視創歷史紀錄". Oriental Daily News. 31 July 1999. 
  30. ^ 중국어 열풍에 중국 드라마가 뜬다
  31. ^ 還珠格格是韓國偶像 亞洲週刊 February 11, 2007
  32. ^ 韩国人如何喜欢《还珠格格》 浙江在線 July 21, 2006.
  33. ^ 林心如赵薇越南演出“寸步难行”
  34. ^ Triệu Vy và Lâm Tâm Như đã tới Việt Nam
  35. ^ 《还珠格格》正看到一半——电视机突爆炸夫妇俩各死伤
  36. ^ 祖孙迷上小燕子 痴痴看爆电视机
  37. ^ 《还珠格格》还可以让电视机爆炸
  38. ^ 女孩模仿《还珠格格》上吊死亡 网友建议禁播此剧
  39. ^ 小女孩尋找小燕子至今未回
  40. ^ 学生,家长,老师谈赵薇
  41. ^ “小燕子”害人-- 一观众向琼瑶索赔八千万
  42. ^ 全国政协明星委员提案:反对“小燕子”当偶像
  43. ^ 紫薇格格:以賣畫為生
  44. ^ Wendee Lee is directing Return of the Pearl Princess
  45. ^ 還珠格格西洋版 文謅謅變美式英文
  46. ^ Conan & Andy Dub Over China's Most Popular Soap Opera - CONAN on TBS (Youtube)
  47. ^ schwäbisch für Chinesen Teil 2 (Youtube)
  48. ^ Hoàng Châu Các Các : tuò̂ng cải lương dã sử
  49. ^ 單碟VCD(有卡拉OK、MTV)目錄 跨世紀之星 葉幼琪專輯
  50. ^ "新版《还珠格格》开机 林心如演紫薇的妈". 022net.com. 26 June 2010. Retrieved 27 June 2010. 
  51. ^ "新《还珠格格》仍拍"三部曲"". news.163.com. 9 May 2010. Retrieved 27 June 2010. 
  52. ^ 这是小燕子还是宋丹丹 新"还珠"开播九成观众念旧 武漢晚報 2011年07月18日
  53. ^ 《新还珠》台湾收视遇冷 网友称翻拍没必要 時光網 July 27, 2011
  54. ^ 剧情太熟主角陌生《新还珠》收视再挫 China Times July 28, 2011

External links[edit]