Empresses in the Palace

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Empresses in the Palace
Empresses in the Palace, Hong Kong version (後宮·甄嬛傳 香港版).jpg
Also known as'The Legend of Zhen Huan'
GenreHistorical fiction
Based onHougong Zhen Huan Zhuan by Liu Lianzi
Written byLiu Lianzi
Wang Xiaoping
Directed byZheng Xiaolong
StarringSun Li
Ada Choi
Chen Jianbin
Jiang Xin
Li Dongxue
Lan Xi
Tao Xinran
Country of originChina
Original language(s)Mandarin
No. of episodes76
Production location(s)China
Running time45 minutes per episode
Production company(s)Beijing TV Art Center
Original networkDragon Television
Original release17 November 2011 (2011-11-17)
Followed byRuyi's Royal Love in the Palace (2018)
Related showsThe Legend of Mi Yue (2015)

Empresses in the Palace (simplified Chinese: 后宫·甄嬛传; traditional Chinese: 後宮·甄嬛傳, lit. The Legend of Zhen Huan), is a 2011 Chinese television series based on the Internet novel of the same name by Liu Lianzi. Directed by Zheng Xiaolong, it stars Sun Li in the title role of Zhen Huan. The series was first aired in China on 17 November 2011.


The series centres on the schemes between Emperor Yongzheng’s concubines in the Imperial Palace during the Qing Dynasty. The innocent 17-year-old Zhen Huan is chosen for the Emperor’s harem, and after entering the palace finds herself caught in the fierce infighting between the Empress and the concubines. Realising that the palace is a cruel and harsh place, she has to learn to survive on her own, sometimes by unorthodox methods. With her wits and talents, Huan fights her way through and wins the Emperor’s affection, ultimately becoming the most influential concubine in the imperial palace, and she ascends to unparalleled glory and wealth. However, she also becomes a woman with few real friends at her side, even after she is rid of all her enemies.

Along the way, she experiences a miscarriage due to mistreatment by Consort Hua, who is the second most powerful woman in the harem, second only to the Empress in rank. However, even though Consort Hua's mistreatment of Huan contributed to her miscarriage, the primary reason for it was because of an ointment that she used regularly to heal a wound. The ointment had ingredients that could induce a miscarriage, given to her by another concubine who Huan thought of as a sister, An Lingrong, the same girl she had once saved. Eventually, Consort Hua is imprisoned in the Cold Palace, a place for discarded concubines, for her many misdeeds, and is eventually given a death sentence and told to commit suicide. Although Consort Hua refuses at first, Huan makes a visit and tells her that the Emperor has never loved her and only favoured her to please her brother, the general Nian Gengyao. She also tells her the reason for her infertility was a special incense granted to her by the Emperor. In the end, Consort Hua commits suicide but refuses to do so in a way that was decreed.

The Empress plots against Huan, arranging things so that she ends up unknowingly wearing the Emperor’s most beloved late Chunyuan Empress's clothes. The Emperor is enraged by this and grounds her to her palace, where she becomes disillusioned with him. At this time, she is pregnant, and only days after she gives birth to a daughter she is transferred over to a nunnery where she becomes a nun. While there she falls in love with the Emperor's brother, Yunli (Prince Guo). However, she eventually comes back to the Forbidden Palace when she mistakenly believes that the Emperor's brother is dead and want to find out the truth of his death (After that, she found that he was still alive, but it was too late). In the palace, she gives birth to twins, fathered by Yunli, but she convinces all that they are the Emperor's. She also adopts the fourth prince, who was looked down upon, as his mother was a lowly palace maid. Gradually she regains the love of the Emperor. She also erodes the power of the Empress and kills An Lingrong who caused the death of Shen Meizhuang, her best friend in the imperial palace.

Finally, the Empress confesses her crime and admits that she was the one who killed the late Chunyuan Empress and caused several miscarriages. However, the Empress, who has been granted amnesty by the late Empress Dowager, is not killed but discarded. Towards the end, the Emperor suspects that Huan and Yunli, the seventeenth prince, of having an affair. He orders her to kill him to prove that she has no feelings towards him. Yunli sacrifices himself for her, and although she does not intentionally kill him, he dies. Following this incident, the Emperor makes Huan the leader of the Imperial Harem, a post that carries supreme authority in the inner palace. However, increasingly the Emperor grows suspicious regarding the paternity of his children with Huan. In order to save her children, she and a concubine named Ye Lanyi plot against the Emperor, and eventually manage to kill him. As the senior most widow, she plays a crucial role in the succession and installs her adopted son, the fourth prince, upon the Dragon Throne instead of her own biological son as she does not want him to be burdened by the role of emperor. And the Empress eventually died. In the end, Huan becomes the sad and lonely Empress Dowager.


In 1722, Emperor Yongzheng of the Qing dynasty has ascended to the throne thanks to the help of Nian Geng Yao (Duke of the Second Class) and Long Ke Duo (Duke of the First Class). Geng Yao's younger sister, Consort Hua, serves as a concubine to the Emperor and is his favored among the women in his harem. The Empress tolerates her rival in most things, allowing her to act in ways that would normally be seen as disrespectful in the actions of a normal concubine. The Empress installs a maid, Fuzi, into Consort Hua's household to keep an eye on her rival. However, Consort Hua is on to the Empress' plan. Six months into his reign, the Dowager Empress encourages her son to expand his harem and add newer, younger women to serve him and increase the family line. Among the ones who are chosen to be viewed and selected by the Emperor and Dowager Empress is Zhen Huan. She prays at a buddhist temple with her maids, Liu Zhu & Huan Bi, to not be selected. Even Imperial Doctor Wen, a family friend and man who has feelings for Zhen Huan, offers her a jade vase as a promise to marry her. However, she can't as she is one of the chosen ones to appear before the royal family to selection.

Others among the selection are: Shen Mei Zhuang (an old friend and playmate of Zhen Huan and highborn lady); An Ling Rong (a meek young girl from a low ranking officer); and Xia Dong Chun (an arrogant girl from a high ranking family). When An Ling accidentally spills her hot tea on Xia Dong's outfit, Xia ridicules her mercilessly until Zhen Huan and Shen Mei intervene. The three women are selected to serve the Emperor as Concubines. When Zhen Huan is shown to the Emperor and Dowager Empress, a startling reaction leaves her fate up in the air.



Empresses in the Palace - Original Television Soundtrack (后宫·甄嬛传电视剧原声音乐大碟)
1."Mishap of a Pretty Face (红颜劫)"Yao Beina 
2."Bodhisattva (菩萨蛮)" (Male version sung by Liu Huan)Yao Beina 
3."Flying Phoenix (凤凰于飞)"Liu Huan 
4."Picking Lotus (采莲)"Yao Beina 
5."Golden Silk Blouse (金缕衣)"Yao Beina 
6."Jing Hong Dance (惊鸿舞)"Yao Beina 


The series had sweeping popularity in mainland China, that Sina termed it as "a whole town tunes in to watch when it airs on TV".[1] It has been praised for being one of the best historical dramas broadcast in mainland China in recent years.[2] Critics attribute the success of the series to its delicately designed plot, fancy costumes reflecting a certain period of old China, and an addictive storyline.[3] Director Zheng also said that the series is not a "simple ancient or idol love story", but a righteous historic values that reflects the cruelty of feudal society.[3]

In Japan, after just one week, the series amassed more than 39 million Japanese viewers. A Fuji TV employee revealed that after the first episode aired, the number of hits for their website multiplied five-fold, and that they also received many phone calls inquiring about the drama. Since the series airs at 5 p.m. on weekday evenings, it is particularly popular among housewives and students. Taka Tsukazaki, the CEO of Asia Republic Entertainment, perhaps said it best when he called the series an “an immortal masterpiece that will still give rise to discussion even after five or ten years.”[4]

Through the series, the audience can learn much about ancient Chinese poetry, fashions, court etiquette, and herbal medicine. The show also features intensely sophisticated dialogue that has sparked trending quotes among its followers on the internet.[2][5] One particular popular phrase is "Jiàn rén jìu shì jiāo qíng (賤人就是矯情) ," spoken by Consort Hua, which literally translates to "bitches are hypocrites".[3]

Cultural influence[edit]

The Style of Zhen Huan[edit]

After the series become popular, audiences began to imitate the way people spoke and behaved during the Qing Dynasty. Many individuals discuss problems or issues by using the language of this drama in forums. The drama helped promote interest in classic Chinese philosophy.

Controversial values[edit]

The drama elicits a controversial debate that divided two sides. People's Daily pointed out that in the series, it appears good characters cannot win against evil characters unless they stoop to their level of cunning. Furthermore, when evaluating the production of historical themes, the most significant critique standard should focus on the values standard instead of authenticity standard. Social media is able to shape people’s mind in visible and invisible ways,and incorrect values would lead the audience to the survival of the incorrect ideas into real life. Conversely, the article of Seeking Truth holds an opposite viewpoint; and they assert this drama reveals the decadent essence of ancient Chinese feudal society and traditional and outdated lifestyle obstructs the development of society. It also praises and appreciates the brave women constantly pursue their happiness and fight against with the forces of evil.


List of Accolades
Award / Festival Category Recipient(s) Result
China TV Golden Eagle Award Outstanding Television Series Won
International Emmy Award[6] Best Actress Sun Li Nominated
Shanghai Television Festival[7] Best Director Zheng Xiaolong Won
Best Actress Sun Li Nominated
China TV Drama Awards Best Television Series Won
Best Director Zheng Xiaolong Won
Best Actress Sun Li Won
Best Supporting Actress[8] Jiang Xin Won
Best New Actor Li Dongxue Won
Most Popular Actress (Hong Kong / Taiwan) Ada Choi Won
Macau International Television Festival[9] Best Drama Won
Best Director Zheng Xiaolong Won
Best Actress Sun Li Won
Huading Awards[10] Best TV Actor Chen Jianbin Won
Chunyan Awards Best Director Zheng Xiaolong Won
China Hengdian Film and Television Festival Best Television Series[11] Won
Best Director Zheng Xiaolong Won

International broadcast[edit]

The drama was first aired in China in 2011 on Dragon TV.

The drama was split into three parts for its Japanese broadcast and was aired under the title Women Vying for Power in the Palace <宮廷の諍い女>. The name change was due to the hanzi and kanji characters for “Zhen huan” (甄嬛), which are not frequently used in the Japanese language and are therefore unrecognizable to most Japanese viewers. However, some netizens complained that the new title was “too bare” and lacked the implicit appeal of the original.[4]

In April 2015, the series was added to US region of Netflix. It was edited down to six episodes, each with a ninety-minute duration. The original audio was kept intact with the addition of closed captions in English.[12]

In Thailand, the series was aired in 2016 and broadcast on Channel 7.[13]and now the series was aired in 2018 and broadcast on One31

The series was uploaded on YouTube by LeTV in 2018.


  1. ^ "Legend of Zhen Huan Sweeps Chinese Mainland". Beijing Review.
  2. ^ a b "Top 10 Chinese entertainment events in 2012". People's Daily. 21 December 2012.
  3. ^ a b c "Desperate concubines". Global Times.
  4. ^ a b ""Legend of Zhen Huan" Becomes Smash Hit in Japan". jaynestars.com. 16 July 2013.
  5. ^ "Zhenhuan-speak". China Story. 27 January 2013.
  6. ^ "International Emmy Awards Nominees". iemmys.tv. Archived from the original on 25 December 2011. Retrieved 12 December 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  7. ^ "Winners of 18th STVF Magnolia Award". stvf.com. Archived from the original on 27 April 2014. Retrieved 1 February 2014. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  8. ^ "Actress Jiang Xin Covers Fashion Magazine". Women of China. Retrieved 1 September 2015.
  9. ^ "葛优闲来无事亲自领奖 孙俪大S齐封后". ent.cntv. Archived from the original on 2016-12-20. Retrieved 2017-04-15. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  10. ^ "2012华鼎奖名人满意度调查获奖名单". Sina.
  11. ^ "1st Hengdian film,TV festival gives out awards". China.org.cn. September 19, 2012.
  12. ^ "Empresses in the Palace coming to Netflix". Netflix Life.
  13. ^ ""ภ.จีน ชุด "เจินหวน จอมนางคู่แผ่นดิน" (THE LEGEND OF ZHEN HUAN)"". Channel 7 (in Thai). Retrieved 26 May 2016.