My Fair Princess
|Also known as||My Fair Princess
Princess Returning Pearl
Princess Returned Pearl
Princess Huan Zhu
The Return Princess
Return of the Pearl Princess
|Created by||Chiung Yao|
|Developed by||Chen Chung-wei|
|Written by||Chiung Yao|
|Directed by||Sun Shu-pei (Seasons 1-2)
Li Ping (Seasons 2-3)
Ting Yang-kuo (Season 3)
|Presented by||Chiung Yao
|Starring||Zhao Wei (Seasons 1-2)
Ruby Lin (Seasons 1-2)
Alec Su (Seasons 1-2)
Zhang Tielin (Seasons 1-2)
Fan Bingbing (Seasons 1-2)
Wang Yan (Seasons 2-3)
Huang Yi (Season 3)
Ma Yili (Season 3)
Leo Ku (Season 3)
Huang Xiaoming (Season 3)
|Opening theme||Season 1: "Dang" (當) performed by Power Station|
|Ending theme||Season 1: "Yu die" (雨蝶) performed by Lee E-jun|
|Country of origin||China
Hong Kong (Season 3)
Tibetan (Season 1)
Uyghur (Season 2)
Burmese (Season 3)
|No. of seasons||3|
|No. of episodes||24 (Season 1)
48 (Season 2)
40 (Season 3)
|Executive producer(s)||Chen Tao-lung (Season 1)
Tu Chi-chung (Season 2)
Liu Xiangqun (Season 3)
Gong Ruofei (Season 3)
Chengde Mountain Resort
Yangzhou (Season 3)
Guangzhou (Season 3)
|Running time||48 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Hunan Broadcasting System
Yi-jen Media Communications Limited (Seasons 1-2)
Ho-jan Entertainment International Limited (Season 3)
|Original channel||China Television (Taiwan)|
|Picture format||576i PAL-D (SDTV)|
|Original airing||1998 (Season 1)
1999 (Season 2)
2003 (Season 3)
|Related shows||New My Fair Princess (2011)|
Princess Pearl, also known as My Fair Princess, Return of the Pearl Princess, or Princess Returning Pearl (還珠格格, pinyin: Huánzhū Gégé, often abbreviated as "HZGG"[note 1]) is a Chinese-language television costume drama set in 18th-century Qing dynasty. Written by creator Chiung Yao, the Cinderella-like story revolves around tomboyish and cheerful Xiaoyanzi, originally an orphaned and semiliterate vagrant in Beijing who, after befriending Qianlong 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.
The first two seasons (1998–1999) were jointly produced by Chiung Yao's company in Taiwan (in conjunction with China Television) and Hunan Broadcasting System (HBS) in Mainland China. Despite a limited budget and starring almost entirely unestablished young actors, Season 1 received up to 54% of audience shares in some Chinese regions, a ratings record later only surpassed by Season 2, which reached 65%. The series also became massive hits in many other East Asian and Southeast Asian countries.
Season 1 won Best Television Series and Best Actress (Zhao Wei) at the 17th Golden Eagle Awards. With reruns in the 2010s still consistently finishing at the top of ratings in China, the drama is considered the most commercially successful Chinese-language series in history. HBS permanently became China's second largest network, while little-known cast members became household names and huge teen idols over night. More than 15 years later, the actress trio of Zhao, Ruby Lin and Fan Bingbing all count among the biggest stars in Chinese entertainment.
In 2011, HBS produced a remake, with a rewritten screenplay from Chiung Yao. Lin made a cameo appearance.
- 1 Origin
- 2 Cast and characters
- 3 Filming
- 4 Plot
- 5 Soundtrack
- 6 Reception
- 7 Remakes
- 8 See also
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
- 11 External links
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 (平鑫濤) established Yi-jen Communications and Media Limited (怡人傳播公司) in 1985 to produce television dramas. (The company later transferred to Chiung Yao's son Chen Chung-wei 陳中維 and daughter-in-law Ho Hsiu-chiung 何琇瓊.) 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 (欧阳常林), 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.
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. 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 (李平). 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.
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.
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. From this legend, Chiung Yao decided to write Princess Returning Pearl as the second drama series.
Cast and characters
|Character||Season 1||Season 2||Season 3|
|Xiaoyanzi (小燕子)||Zhao Wei||Huang Yi|
|Xia Ziwei (夏紫薇)||Ruby Lin||Ma Yili|
|Yongqi (永琪)||Alec Su||Leo Ku|
|Fu Erkang (福爾康)||Zhou Jie|
|Jinsuo (金瑣)||Fan Bingbing|
|Qianlong Emperor (乾隆皇帝)||Zhang Tielin||Ti Lung|
|the empress||Dai Chunrong||Jiang Lili|
|Consort Ling (令妃)||Zhao Lijuan||Chen Li|
|Wet-Nurse Rong (容嬷嬷)||Li Mingqi||Qiao Chen|
|Liu Qing (柳青)||Lu Shiyu|
|Liu Hong (柳紅)||Chen Ying|
|Fu Lun (福倫)||Wen Haibo|
|Fu Lun's wife||Liu Fang|
|Xiaodengzi (小鄧子)||Xue Yan||Zhai Yujia|
|Xiaozhuozi (小卓子)||Li Nan||Liu Wei||Zhang Tong|
|Mingyue (明月)||Yu Mengjie||Gong Yan|
|Caixia (彩霞)||Liu Fangyu||Li Bingqiao||Du Minhe|
|Fu Heng (傅恆)||Zhang Wei||Wang Weiguang|
|the empress dowager||Zhao Minfen|
|Qing'er (晴兒)||Wang Yan|
|Xiao Jian (簫劍)||Zhu Hongjia||Huang Xiaoming|
|Wet-Nurse Gui (桂嬷嬷)||Zhai Yuerong||Zhou Guiyun|
- Season 1 only
- Ruby Lin as Xia Yuhe
- Chen Chih-peng as Fu Ertai
- Zhang Heng as Princess Saiya
- Liu Dan as Ji Xiaolan
- You Long as E Min
- Liu Wei as Liang Tinggui
- Wang Yi as Baleben
- Miao Haojun as Sai Wei
- Zhu Jinglong as Sai Guang
- Ai Yang as Dongxue
- Dong Wei as Lamei
- Yang Dong as Cailian
- Zheng Jiaxin as Du Ruolan
- Season 2 only
- Liu Dan as Hanxiang
- Mou Fengbin as Mengdan (Merdan)
- Chen Yifang as Weina
- Zhong Xiaodan as Jina
- Yin Wei as Ali Hezhuo (Ali Khoja)
- Xu Fulai as Shop-Owner Du
- Wang Hong as Shop-Owner Du's wife
- Hu Yasi as Xiaogezi
- Season 3 only
In the mid-1990s, agent Lee Ching-ping (李靜平) working for Chiung Yao was in Beijing scouting for prospective 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 actress that was recommended did not leave much of an impression, but another actress "with big eyes" caught Lee's attention. Eventually Lee found the big-eyed girl named Zhao Wei (Vicki Zhao), who in 1997 was a 21-year-old freshman/sophomore in the Performing Institute of Beijing Film Academy. Chiung Yao also was impressed and decided to cast Zhao Wei in the role of Xia Ziwei, after reaching an agreement with her school.
Taiwanese actress Lee Ting-yi (李婷宜) was originally chosen to portray Xiaoyanzi. However, about a week before filming was scheduled to begin, Lee Ching-ping was informed that Lee Ting-yi could not participate in the project as it conflicted with a film of hers. Since there was not enough time to find other actors, 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:
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 16-year-old Fan Bingbing (eventually cast as Jinsuo), 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 张恒, became Saiya.) Lin was under contract with Chiung Yao's company and better known (though by no means famous) particularly 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 郑泽凡, was also Zhao's classmate. She was eventually cast as the minor character Du Ruolan.) With the Taiwanese director Sun Shu-pei (孫樹培) predicting "Ruby Lin will be very popular one day" and insisting on keeping Lin, 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.[note 2]
With the exception of former The Little Tigers members Alec Su and Chen Chih-peng (陳志朋) from Taiwan[note 3] — neither with much acting experience — and Zhang Tielin (a teen idol in China in the late 1970s who spent most of the 1990s in Great Britain), all of the Season 1 & 2 cast members were considered little-known or unknown before the series. Most, like Zhao and her classmates, were film school students and aspiring actors in Mainland China. Even the older actors had limited television experiences; for example Dai Chunrong was a qinqiang actress who had only 1 television credit, but was chosen because in that series (Han Gong Fei Yan 汉宫飞燕) she also portrayed an empress married to Zhang Tielin's emperor.[note 4] In Season 1, the actors all made less than ¥2,000 per episode (roughly US$240 in 1997). Fan Bingbing, for example, made ¥1,000 per episode.
Chiung Yao started writing the script in June 1997 at the same time actors started their auditions.[note 5] Chiung Yao invited Sun Shu-pei, who in 1993 defeated her in Taiwan's ratings charts with the highly-popular hit Justice Bao, to direct the drama. This was Sun's first series in the mainland.
Between Seasons 1 and 2, Zhao and Su starred in another series Old House Has Joy, again portraying a couple.
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, 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.
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 Prince Gong Mansion, Beijing Grand View Garden, Miniature Garden of Old Beijing, and Beijing Film Studio in Beijing. Sun Shu-pei remembered being jealous of the large-budget Yongzheng Dynasty, filming next to them in Chengde.
To save cost, all jewelries used were made of plastic, and Zhao Wei developed an infection from allergies to the plastic earrings. Both Fan Bingbing and Ruby Lin remembered being disrespected by makeup artists. (Fan remembered when they shot Season 2, after they already became famous, the makeup artists treated them professionally.) Working hours were also extremely long. According to Sun, "the actors normally got up at night to do the makeups and apply costumes, and film all the way until it was too dark to see. Sometimes they could not sleep at all." 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. Zhao remembered throwing up from the exhaustion. As the script required a lot of crying from the three girls (Zhao, Lin and Fan), they would have swollen eyes, headaches and a bad mood after working long hours. Once, unable to cry any more, they were harshly criticized by an irritated Sun, which made them cry again since they felt very wronged. Zhao shot many wire-flying scenes and in one scene had to fall face-down into a pool of water containing horse manure. Fan was once thrown off a horse but got back on it in 10 minutes. 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 (李明启), the oldest actor:
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 Returning Pearl is indescribable with words, it's too much.
Filming concluded 5 months later. Due to time constraints, some action scenes were not completed. Zhou Jie did not get along with Alec Su and Chen Chih-peng and had spats with both of them.[note 6]
Season 2 began filming on 15 September 1998 with a much larger budget, owing to the unexpected success of Season 1. Filming locations also included Bashang Plateau, Inner Mongolia, as well as Kangxi Grassland, Xiangshan Park, Workers Cultural Palace and Mei Lanfang's former residence (all in Beijing). Unlike the "neglected" Season 1 where not a single outsider showed up to watch the filming, Season 2's filming was extensively covered by the media. Every morning, leaving the hotel was difficult for the cast members, as it was filled with fans, many from out of town. Describing the madness, Fan Bingbing wrote in 2004:
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.
In the year 1759, 17-year-old[note 7] 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.
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.
In the final installment, the story starts off with Xiaoyanzi accidentally losing a child. The empress dowager is now increasingly unhappy with Xiaoyanzi, believing she is not ladylike to be Yongqi's wife, particularly in carrying on the family line. At the same time, Qing'er and Xiaoyanzi's brother, Xiao Jian, are also in love. But empress dowager does not like Xiao Jian, especially after when she finds that Xiaoyanzi and Xiao Jian's father was killed by Qianlong. She thinks that the siblings may want to kill Qianlong for revenge. Before she finds out this fact, they went to Chen's family, where she met Zhihua. The Dowager likes Zhihua more than Xiaoyanzi, and wants Zhihua to marry Yongqi. After returning to the imperial palace, the empress dowager makes a plan to separate Yongqi and Xiaoyanzi, Qing'er and Xiao Jian. She threatens them that she would kill Xiaojian if Yongqi does not marry Zhihua, and requests that Zhihua should be wife and Xiaoyanzi should be a concubine. To save Xiaojian's life, they accept the empress dowager's conditions and Xiaojian is sent away.
Yonqi marries Zhihua, as the empress dowager requests. The empress dowager also sends many servants to come and serve the couple. First, they pretend that they really love each other. However, Zhihua really loves Yongqi, and forces him to bathe with her, which angers Xiaoyanzi.
Although Yongqi gives in and marries Zhihua, Zhihua remains a virgin after marrying Yongqi for quite a long time. But eventually, ErKang and Ziwei persuade Xiaoyanzi that Zhihua has the right to have a child of Yongqi. Xiaoyanzi, being convinced, forced Yongqi to enter Zhihua's room. Not long later, Zhihua is found pregnant.
Not much time after the news, both Yongqi and Erkang volunteer to go into war with Burma. In the war, when Erkang fights with the eighth 'prince', who he finds that 'he', or rather 'she', is actually the eighth princess, Musha. Musha is attracted to Erkang, and plans to take him back to Burma. Musha disguises another soldier to look like Erkang to make the Qings think that Erkang is dead. After the war ends, Xiao Jian remains in YunNan, because he is suspicious about Erkang's death. Xiao Jian later discovers Erkang may not be dead and has been captured to Burma. Xiao Jian takes the news back to Yongqi, Xiaoyanzi, Ziwei, Qing'er in Beijing. The Group travels to Burma in order to rescue Erkang. They initially ask Qianlong to let them go to Burma to rescue Erkang, but Qianlong doubts the news and refuses to let them go. They resolve to go to Burma on their own by sneaking out of the palace. Xiaoyanzi wants to stay in YunNan, and she convinces Yongqi to stay with her. Zhihua hears their conversation and gets angry. Qianlong also asks to see the person who brought the news, Xiaojian, but Xiaojian refuses to see the emperor. Eventually, Xiaojian is forced to make an appearance, and Zhihua tells everything that she knows. She tells Qianlong that Xiaojian and Xiaoyanzi's parents were killed by Qianlong. Xiao Jian attempts to kill Qianlong, who is rescued by Yongqi. Xiao Jian, raged, wants to kill Yongqi, but Xiaoyanzi pushes Xiao Jian out of the way. She convinces Xiao Jian that Yongqi was the love of her life. Qianlong, not knowing what to do, sends them all back to where they came from, and researches what really happened. Then, Qianlong calls them over to tell them what really happened to Xiaoyanzi and Xiao Jian's father. After that, Qianlong decides to let them go. Yongqi also abandons Zhihua and her son, and lives like a commoner with Xiaoyanzi, Qing'er and Xiao Jian.
After finding Erkang, Xiao Jian and Qing'er are married. During their wedding, Xiaoyanzi announces that she is pregnant and decides to name her child Nan'er as Ziwei first child was named Dong'er. Years later, Erkang and the emperor goes to visit them, they find that both couples are happy and they both have 4 children, and that Yongqi becomes a doctor. Zhihua is also not remarried and is living happily now. The season ends with both couples and their children living together with the emperor and Erkang, singing happily.
Seasons 1 & 2
|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):
|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.
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).
|1.||"天上人間" (Tiānshàng rénjiān, "Heavenly Earth")||Leo Ku||Leo Ku||04:09|
|2.||"問燕兒" (Wèn yàn er, "Asking Swallow")||Leo Ku||Leo Ku||03:32|
|3.||"在這離別時候" (Zài zhè líbié shíhou , "At This Time of Departure")||Leo Ku||Leo Ku||03:24|
|4.||"只要有你" (Zhǐyào yǒu nǐ, "As Long As I have You")||Chuang Li-fan||Leo Ku, Huang Yi, Zhou Jie, Ma Yili, Huang Xiaoming, Liu Tao||05:17|
|5.||"奈何" (Nàihé, "No Alternative")||Hsu Chia-liang||Liu Pan||03:53|
|6.||"最怕別離" (Zuì pà biélí, "Most Afraid of Departure")||Hsiang Chung-wei||Liu Pan||03:15|
|7.||"自君別後" (Zì jūn bié hòu, "Since You Left")||Hsu Chia-liang||Chen Sisi||03:46|
|8.||"天上人間會相逢" (Tiānshàng rénjiān huì xiāngféng, "Heavenly Earth Has Encounters")||Hsiao-chien||Liu Pan||04:25|
|9.||"小橋流水" (Xiǎoqiáo liúshuǐ, "Small Bridge, Flowing Water")||Hsu Chia-liang||Chen Sisi||03:50|
|10.||"西湖柳" (Xīhú liǔ, "Willow of the West Lake")||Lee Cheng-fan||Chen Sisi||04:10|
|11.||"山一程水一程" (Shān yī chéng shuǐ yī chéng, "A Journey of Mountains, a Journey of Waters")||Hsiang Chung-wei||Chen Sisi||03:56|
|12.||"重逢時刻" (Chóngféng shíkè, "The Moment of Reunion")||Hsiao-chien||Liu Pan||03:57|
|13.||"英雄出征" (Yīngxióng chūzhēng, "Heroes Go To War")||Hao Han||Zhaorite||03:35|
Chiung Yao wrote all the lyrics except for Track 13, which was written by Hao Han.
Taiwan's China Television (CTV), which had a prior agreement with Chiung Yao's company, was the first channel to broadcast Season 1 on 28 April 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. (After it was later broadcast in mainland China, Zhao would receive in total over 100,000 letters, sometimes 1,000 in a day.) 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. The much longer Season 2 was then broadcast right afterwards and reran immediately, continuing the "Returning Pearl" fever nonstop from March until 13 December 1999.
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. 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%. Season 2, first broadcast in June 1999 just like in Taiwan, had even better numbers, averaging more than 50% across the board, reaching as high as 65% on HNTV. These numbers have never been challenged since. Commercial returns were immense; copyrights in Mainland China were sold for ¥390,000/episode for Season 1 and ¥545,000/episode for Season 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. (In comparison, all actors made less than ¥2,000/episode for Season 1.)
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. TVB bought the rights for Season 3.
In Mongolia, ratings were so high that distributors showed the last 3 episodes of Season 1 in movie theaters.
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. Many Korean fans started to study Chinese.
The series was also quite popular in Vietnam. In February 2001, before Romance in the Rain aired, Zhao Wei and Ruby Lin went to Ho Chi Minh City together where they visited an SOS Children's Village and sang at the "Xuân 2001" ("Spring 2001") concert.
Awards and nominations
|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.
The series was blamed for many unfortunate incidents ranging from multiple television set explosions (due to overuse) to at least 6 accidental deaths of Chinese children trying to imitate Xiaoyanzi's fake hanging suicide attempt. 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. 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. 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. 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.
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".
Premier year refers to Season 1.
|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|
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".
- Chrissy Swinko - Sparrow (Xiaoyanzi)
- Cristina Valenzuela - Rose (Xia Ziwei)
- Christine Marie Cabanos - Goldlock (Jinsuo)
- Grant George - Yongqi
- Kira Buckland - Liu Hong
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. (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.)
Season 1 was adapted into a Cantonese opera titled Waan Jyu Gaaak Gak 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).
Hoàng Châu Các Các (2002)
- 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 Emperor Qianlong)
- 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)
New Princess Pearl (2011)
A 98-episode remake of the first series was filmed in June 2010, and aired in 2011. Akin to the old version, the remake had 3 parts, but had more comedic elements than the original. After airing in China, both critics and audiences have expressed disappointments with the casting and the script.
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.
- Gongzhufen - the place that inspired the story
- Old House Has Joy - a 1998 TV series starring Zhao and Su
- Romance in the Rain - a 2001 Chiung Yao TV series starring Zhao, Lin, Su and Ku
- China's Got Talent (series 5) - a 2013-2014 reality show featuring Zhao and Su as judges
- In Vietnam, it's usually abbreviated as "HCCC".
- In 2011, Zhao Wei posted on Sina Weibo — where she and Ruby Lin managed 2 of the most popular accounts — an old photo with them together and wrote: "On that day thought Ruby was going to leave the set of Pearl Princess, very sad!... Hope we both remember that moment!" Lin soon replied: "14 years... very grateful I had you with me on that day, during those days... Long live friendship!"
- 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.
- Interestingly, Dai Chunrong and Zhang Tielin would later become known as "the empress specialist" and "the emperor specialist" respectively for having portrayed so many empresses and emperors — over 10 each — in television after Princess Pearl.
- For Princess Pearl, Chiung Yao wrote the television script before the novel series.
- Alec Su had alleged Zhou Jie of bullying him, but Zhou denied it in 1999: "It was probably a communication problem... everything was for his good, who could bully an adult like him?" Chen Chih-peng also wrote in a 2005 book that he fought "another actor" who always bullied Su and himself. In 2010, after Su and Chen performed in the widely-watched CCTV New Year's Gala in China, Zhou publicly suggested on his blog that he had arguments with the Taiwanese actors because of their support of Taiwan independence movement, a charge Su adamantly denied. Chen responded by threatening legal action. A relatively unknown Chinese actor then responded to the publicity by writing on his verified blog that he also experienced bullying by Zhou in a 2003 project.
- In East Asian age reckoning, 18 years old is closer to 16 or 17 in the Western age reckoning.
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- Currency Converter
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