Ruyi's Royal Love in the Palace

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Ruyi's Royal Love in the Palace
Ruyi Royal Love.jpg
Also known asThe Legend of Ruyi
Traditional如懿傳
Simplified如懿传
MandarinRúyì Zhuàn
Genre
Based onHou Gong Ru Yi Zhuan
by Liu Lianzi
Written byLiu Lianzi
Directed byWang Jun
Starring
Country of originChina
Original languageMandarin
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes87
Production
Executive producerHuang Lan
Production locations
Production companyNew Classics Media
Release
Original networkTencent, Jiangsu Television, Dragon Television
First shown inChina
Original releaseAugust 20 (2018-08-20) –
October 15, 2018 (2018-10-15)

Ruyi's Royal Love in the Palace (simplified Chinese: 如懿传; traditional Chinese: 如懿傳; pinyin: Rúyì Zhuàn, lit. The Legend of Ruyi) is a 2018 Chinese television series based on novel Hou Gong Ru Yi Zhuan by Liu Lianzi. Starring Zhou Xun and Wallace Huo, the series chronicles the relationship between Emperor Qianlong and Empress Nara. It is the sequel to the critically acclaimed drama Empresses in the Palace.[1][2] It aired on Tencent Video starting 20 August to 15 October 2018;[3] during which it was streamed more than 18,9 billion times.[4] It later went on national broadcast and aired simultaneously on Jiangsu Television and Dragon Television from 25 December 2018.[5]

Despite receiving mixed reviews from viewers about the plot and the characters, the series eventually won acclaim for its exquisite props, lavish sets and stellar cast and has a score of 7.5 points on Douban.

Synopsis[edit]

The story follows Step Empress Nara and her life during the Qianlong Emperor's reign as his consort until her death. Her life is detailed to explain the reasoning behind her lack of documented history despite her status as Empress.

Step Empress Nara grew up as Lady Qingying, the niece of Empress Xiaojing, during the Yongzheng Emperor's reign and was future Qianlong Emperor's childhood friend; he was referred to as fourth prince Hongli prior to his ascension. Initially chosen to be his difujin (primary consort) when he was a prince, Lady Qingying's status in the Imperial Court was compromised after the Yongzheng Emperor exposed Empress Xiaojing for causing the death of the previous Empress and took third prince Hongshi from the line of succession. Prince Hongli, now the new successor to the throne, is forced to rescind his decision, and takes future Empress Fuca Langhua as his difujin instead. However, he compromised with Yongzheng Emperor to let him take Lady Qingying back as cefujin (secondary consort) so that she could stay with him in The Harem. Another candidate, Lady Gao Xiyue is taken as his concubine as well. All three were promoted once Prince Hongli became Qianlong Emperor ascended to the throne, with Lady Qingying becoming Noble Consort Xian and Lady Gao becoming Noble Consort Hui.

Due to her involvement with the Ula-Nara clan and her reputation as Qianlong Emperor's favored wife and childhood friend, Consort Xian is initially not well received in The Harem and Imperial Family. His mother Consort Xi, now the Dowager Empress, initially distrusted Consort Xian but granted her the name "Ruyi" when the latter requested to be give a new name to start anew; she is referred to as Ruyi by Qianlong Emperor and various others in private and informal settings. Empress Fuca feels threatened by Ruyi's favor and, with Noble Consort Hui's assistance, helped set traps and planted accusations against her in order to make her less favored. Torn between his love for Ruyi, his duty to both his Empress Fuca and the Dowager Empress, as well as imperial affairs and his desire to maintain the Qing's good reputation, Qianlong Emperor often turns the other way when Ruyi is in need or side against her instead. As a result, Ruyi is eventually demoted to become a commoner and sent to The Cold Palace for years. During her time, she struggles to survive in her new home but endured with the help of her servant and guard. She also discovers Empress Fuca's plans to intentionally make both her and Noble Consort Hui infertile via a bracelet given to both of them as a gift.

Eventually, Ruyi is able to escape with the help of her allies within The Harem and return to the Imperial Court as Consort Xian once more. Noble Consort Hui, now Imperial Noble Consort Hui, learns of Empress Fuca's plan through Ruyi and exposes Empress Fuca's actions to Qianlong Emperor before her death. Empress Fuca begins to lose favor and her health went into decline as Ruyi's allies, the future Noble Consort Yu and future Imperial Noble Consort Chun, orchestrate the death of her remaining sons and forced her remaining daughter Grand Princess Jingse to be married off against Empress Fuca's wishes. After nearly drowning on accident, she eventually succumbs to illness but warns Qianlong Emperor about Ruyi and wanting Noble Consort Chun to succeed her instead. She also curses whoever would take her position as Empress to die tragically. Qianlong Emperor forces everyone to mourn and Imperial Noble Consort Chun's sons were taken out of the royal succession for not mourning properly and lose her opportunity to become the next Step Empress. It is revealed that Empress Fuca and Imperial Noble Consort Hui's actions were manipulated by Consort Jia, who wanted the title of Empress herself in order to win the love of the Joseon Crown Prince. Ruyi's ascension from Consort to Imperial Noble Consort to Step Empress was made uneasy due to Consort Jia's attempt to curb her favor with scathing rumors and other actions. Eventually, as Consort Jia is demoted and re-promoted over the years, she loses favor from Qianglong Emperor and becomes abused by the women who were wronged by her. Her plan to put her sons on the throne for Joseon were revealed and she is demoted by Qianlong Emperor to become a commoner. She dies brokenhearted after learning why the Crown Prince would never love her and her sons were taken out of the royal succession.

Ruyi's relationship with Qianlong Emperor is challenged throughout their marriage but went into further decline after Consort Jia's death. As wrongful accusations and rumors about Ruyi causes her to lose favor and respect from Qianlong Emperor, her differing opinions also began clashing with his personal desires, expectations, and wants. Consort Ling, a look-a-like of Ruyi and former maid of Consort Jia, eventually rose to power as a means of spiting those who wronged her in the past and financial pressure from her family. As a result of her supporting Qianlong's choices regardless of their consequences, Consort Ling grew in favor over the years and her influence caused the rift between him and Ruyi to grow further. More people within The Harem and Imperial family began to divide themselves into factions that either supported Ruyi or Consort Ling; members such as Dowager Empress and Noble Consort Yu supported Ruyi while others, such as Grand Princess Jingse, supported Consort Ling instead. More people within the Imperial Palace also die due to Consort Ling's machinations, including the children of Ruyi and her allies, and some of their deaths were blamed to be caused by Ruyi herself.

The events of the story escalates to Ruyi confronting Qianlong Emperor while he was busying himself with courtesans Consort Ling's organized for him. Alone with Qianlong Emperor, Ruyi argued with him about his irresponsible actions and behavior over the years; she stated how extreme and ungrateful he has been to her while he stated how she refused to comply to his personal wishes and demands. Realizing that she was no longer married to the man she loved before, Ruyi cut off her hair in front of him to symbolically end their marriage and give back her title of Step Empress back to him. The act, which was seen as a curse to Qianlong Emperor and Dowager Emperor, forced the former to put Ruyi under house arrest but not rescind her title. Ruyi learns of the newly-promoted Imperial Noble Consort Ling's actions, especially how some of them were initially believed to be the actions of Consort Jia and Empress Fuca, and reveals all of them to Qianlong Emperor before she eventually passes away from tuberculosis. Imperial Noble Consort Ling is then punished by being demoted to commoner and slowly poisoned until her eventual death. Despite Qianlong Emperor asking for Ruyi's forgiveness and for her to return to the Imperial Court as Step Empress once more during the last months of her life, she refused to come back or even meet with the other women of The Harem. She also did not disclose her sickness to him until after her death.

A small funeral was held for Ruyi by her surviving allies in The Harem soon after and her death was announced to Qianlong Emperor while he was away on a trip. Initially, Qianlong Emperor attempts to memorialize Ruyi but discovered that she not only returned her Imperial gifts, which were bestowed on her when she became Step Empress, but also destroyed a painting of herself that was given by him as a peace offering during her house arrest. Realizing that Ruyi never wanted to be involved in The Harem in the first place and suffered greatly because of him wanting to put up a good reputation for Qing over her own wellbeing, he orders all records of Ruyi to be destroyed and her death to be written as merely a passing of a clanswoman, which brought controversy throughout China. He also spends the rest of his life retiring in a pavilion he designed and dedicated to her, forever haunted by her memory as he grew older. To save their only surviving son from the pressures and tragedies that come from being an emperor, he also made Consort Ling's youngest son to be his successor instead.

The series ends with a now-old Qianlong Emperor cutting a piece of his hair and intertwining it with the lock of hair Ruyi cut in front of him years ago and dying peacefully. Ruyi's favorite plant, the green plum, blooms for the first time in decades after Qianlong Emperor was found dead by one of his servants. The ending sequence states that no consort from Ula-Nara ever entered The Harem again after Ruyi's death.

Cast[edit]

Main[edit]

Leading Protagonists[edit]

Actor Character Residence Introduction
Zhou Xun Ula-Nara Ruyi (烏拉那拉·如懿) Yanxi Palace
Yikun Palace
The Step Empress (繼皇后)
Lady Ula-Nara → Secondary Consort (Ce Fujin) → Consort Xian → Noble Lady Xian → Commoner → Consort Xian → Noble Consort Xian → Imperial Noble Consort → The Step Empress

Coming from the Ula-Nara clan of the Plain Yellow Banner with the birth name Qingying (青櫻), she is the niece of the Ula-Nara Yixiu, Yongzheng's Empress.

Wanting to distance herself from her past and make amends, she requeseted Dowager Empress to give her a new name. She is given the name Ruyi (如懿), meaning 'beautiful and quiet' (美好安靜), reminding her that she must be calm if she wants to have a peaceful life in the palace. Ruyi is despised by various people in The Harem due to her past relationship with Qianlong Emperor and suffered trials and tribulations as a result. She is eventually promoted to Step Empress but her relationship between her and Qianlong Emperor is eventually severed as time passed.

Her death causes great pain and guilt to Qianlong Emperor up to the day he dies. Her legacy remains a mystery for years to come, as Qianlong Emperor ordered all records and documents of her to be destroyed after her death.

Wallace Huo Aisin-Gioro Hongli (愛新覺羅·弘曆) Prince Bao's Manor
Yangxin Hall
The Qianlong Emperor (乾隆皇帝)
The Fourth Prince → Prince Bao of the First Rank → The Qianlong Emperor

The fourth son of the Yongzheng Emperor and Dowager Empress's adoptive son.

While he is talented and politically-capable individual, he is revealed to be an insecure and selfish person who is skeptical of those around him. Appearances matter to him, as he intentionally hides the true reality of the Imperial Court from the outside world, and puts on a show to pretend that he genuinely cares for his consorts and his family. As he grows older, he falls victim to under Consort Ling's influence and indulges in his own ego, becoming a shadow of the man he was before and breaking Ruyi's heart multiple times throughout the story.

Qianlong Emperor eventually realizes the error of his ways and attempts to reconcile with Ruyi until her death. Out of guilt and as a final attempt of making things right, he removed all traces of her (paintings, records, etc.) from the Imperial Court as a means to set her free.

Secondary Protagonists[edit]

Actor Character Residence Introduction
Janine Chang[6][7] Keliyete Hailan (珂里葉特·海蘭) Xianfu Palace
Yanxi Palace
Noble Consort Yu (愉貴妃)
Embroidery maid → Mistress (Shu Fujin) → First Attendant Hai → Noble Lady Hai → Concubine Yu → Consort Yu → Noble Consort Yu (posthumous)

Initially an embroidery maid in Prince Hongli's residence named Hailan and eventually promoted to become Noble Consort Yu.

Gentle yet determined, she is a loyal friend and confidante of Ruyi. Noble Consort Yu was taken advantage of by Prince Hongli on a drunken occasion when she was a maid prior to his ascension. To preserve her dignity and prevent her from being further bullied, Ruyi helped her become a Mistress in The Harem and she eventually became known as Noble Consort Yu. She is still referred to as Hailan by Ruyi and refers to Ruyi as her older sister. Her son, Prince Yongqi, was ultimately adopted by Ruyi and seen as Qianlong Emperor's favorite son until the former's death. Noble Consort Yu is an exceptionally influential member of The Harem and makes use of her influence to deal with the concubines and consorts who stand in Ruyi's way.

She serves as the messenger that helped Ruyi expose Consort Ling's actions to Qianlong Emperor.

Vivian Wu[8] Niohuru Zhenhuan (钮祜禄·甄嬛) Yongshou Palace
Shoukang Palace
Cining Palace
Empress Dowager Chongqing (崇慶皇太后)
Consort Xi → Noble Consort Xi → Empress Dowager Chongqing

Qianlong Emperor's adoptive mother and Dowager Empress during Qianlong Emperor's reign.

Although she appears to share a civil relationship with her son, they are wary and suspicious of each other. In order to ensure that she continues to thrive in the inner court, she places concubines that are subservient to her by the Emperor's side. However, Qianlong Emperor shows deep respect for his mother as a means of displaying filialty.

She initially dislikes Ruyi because of her familial relationship with Empress Xiaojing, but later grows to respect her for her intelligence and her pure love for Qianlong Emperor and becomes an ally to her in the end. However, some of her tasks that she asked Ruyi to perform ended up causing strain on Ruyi's relationship with Qianlong Emperor as well as the rest of the family.

Jing Chao[9] Ling Yunche (凌雲徹) N/A

Ling Yunche (凌雲徹)

Imperial guard of the Cold Palace → Imperial guard of Kunning Palace → Lanling Imperial guard → Imperial guard of the 3rd rank → Slave → Imperial guard of the 2nd rank → Imperial guard of the 1st rank → Eunuch of Yikun Palace

An imperial guard that helped Ruyi survive the Cold Palace. He was Consort Ling's first love and eventually Miaoqian's husband.

Loyal and empathetic, he rose in rank and helped Ruyi during her trials and tribulations. Despite his status, he has a soft spot for Ruyi and rumored to have a crush on her too. However, he is accused of having and affair with Ruyi after attempting to rescue her in front of Qianlong Emperor and became a Eunuch as a humiliating punishment.

He is killed under orders of Noble Consort Yu when the latter realizes he would pose a threat to Ruyi's position as Empress.

Main antagonists[edit]

Actor Character Residence Introduction
Tong Yao[10] Gao Xiyue (高晞月) Xianfu Palace Imperial Noble Consort Huixian (慧賢皇貴妃)Misstress Gao (Shu fujin) → Secondary Consort (Ce Fujin) → Noble Consort Hui(慧貴妃) → Imperial Noble Consort Hui(慧皇貴妃) → Imperial Noble Consort Huixian (posthumous)

Formerly the concubine of then-Fourth Prince and eventually promoted as Imperial Noble Consort Hui.

A skilled Pipa player who is proficient in the Chinese Four Arts and favored consort of Qianlong Emperor during the earlier years of his reign, she is arrogant and defiant as a result of her family's status and talents. Her hatred towards Ruyi led her to form an alliance with Empress Fuca in order to take her down. However, she is eventually discarded by Empress Fuca after falling into delirium and learns the truth about her infertility.

On her death bed, she exposed to the Emperor Qianlong what Empress Fuca had done, and gave him scabies via a dirty blanket as a parting gift.

Dong Jie[11] Fuca Langhua (富察·琅嬅) Changchun Palace The First Empress Xiaoxianchun (孝賢純皇后)
Di fujin → The First Empress(元后)

Formerly the first wife of then-Fourth Prince and eventually the Empress Fuca.

Elegant and dignified, she presents herself as a respected and virtuous Empress. However, her jealousy towards Ruyi and her own insecurities led her to become obsessed with keeping Qianlong Emperor's favor and hold high expectations for those around her- including her servants and children.

Once Qianlong Emperor learns of Empress Fuca's actions, she loses favor and succumbs to illness. Before her death, she asks Qianlong Emperor to dispose Ruyi and is survived by Grand Princess Jingse. She also cursed whoever tries to pursue her status as Empress to die tragically. Even after her death, Qianlong Emperor often compares Ruyi to her when criticizing the Step Empress's behavior. Despite losing favor from him at the end of her life, Empress Fuca is memorialized throughout his reign; Qianlong Emperor went as far as disowning his two sons for not mourning hard enough at her death.

Empress Fuca's passing not only made way for Ruyi to become Step Empress but inspired Grand Princess Jingse to side with Consort Ling to fulfil her mother's final request.

Xin Zhilei[12] Jin Yuyan/Kim Ok-yeon (金玉妍/김옥연) Qixiang Palace Imperial Noble Consort Shujia (淑嘉皇貴妃)
Lady Jin (Shu fujin) → Noble Lady Jia (嘉貴人) → Concubine Jia (嘉嬪) → Consort Jia (嘉妃) → Noble Consort Jia (嘉貴妃) → Concubine Jia (嘉嬪) → Noble Lady Jia → Noble Consort Jia → Second Class Female Attendant Jin (金答應) → Noble Consort Jia → Commoner → Imperial Noble Consort Shujia (posthumous)

A favored concubine of Qianlong Emperor from Joseon that rose and fell in rank over the years but became known as Consort Jia.

Initially seen as a foreigner who is attentive and favored by Qianlong Emperor, she is revealed to be manipulative, shrewd, and the mastermind behind Imperial Noble Consort Hui and Empress Fuca's actions and demise. She intentionally earns favor in order to make her next son the successor and win favor and love from the Crown Prince of Joseon. As a result, she instigated many conflicts and caused the deaths of various concubines and their children. Her plans were ultimately revealed and she is demoted to commoner as punishment.

To save face, her family revealed that she was actually adopted, explaining why Crown Prince is unable to love her. Ruyi reveals this to Jia, who died of a broken heart as a result. Her posthumous title of Imperial Noble Consort Shujia; her name is a homophone for "loser" (输家).

Li Chun[13] Wei Yanwan (魏嬿婉/衛嬿婉)[14] Yongshou Palace Imperial Noble Consort Lingyi (炩懿皇貴妃) or The Third Empress Xiaoyichun (孝儀純皇后)
Palace maid → Palace maid of Consort Chun → Palace Maid of the Royal Garden → Palace Maid of Consort Jia →Palace Maid of the Yangxin Palace→ Second Class Female Attendant Wei (衛答應) → First Class Female Attendant Wei (衛常在) → Noble Lady Ling (炩貴人) → Concubine Ling (炩嬪) → Consort Ling (炩妃) → Second Class Female Attendant Wei → Concubine Ling → Consort Ling → Noble Consort Ling (炩貴妃) → Imperial Noble Consort Ling (炩皇貴妃) → Imperial Noble Consort Lingyi (炩懿皇貴妃, posthumous) → The Third Empress (孝儀純皇后, posthumous)

Initially a former maid named Wei Yanwan that was a Ruyi look-a-like who rose in rank and turned Imperial Noble Consort Ling.

Ambitious and hardworking, she initially didn't want to be involved with The Harem or its politics but was abused by Consort Jia as a means to appease Empress Fuca. Angry with her situation and forced to support her family financially as a consequence of her father and brother's actions, she learned various skills and talents in order to become an influential part of The Harem and be heavily favored by Qianlong Emperor in order to rise in rank. Eventually, she became Imperial Noble Consort and showed her prowess in manipulating people to do her bidding. Her desire to gain and maintain favor caused Ruyi to not only lose favor but destroy her relationship with Qianlong Emperor. Eventually, Imperial Noble Consort Ling takes over Ruyi's position and responsibilities to maintain The Harem but fails, and her actions against the Imperial Family are exposed by Ruyi.

After her death, she was promoted posthumously as Empress and her son became a successor to the throne as the Jiaqing Emperor.

Supporting[edit]

The harem[edit]

Actor Character Residence Introduction
Hu Ke[15] Su Lüyun (蘇綠筠) Zhongcui Palace Imperial Noble Consort Chunhui (純惠皇貴妃)
Mistress (Shu Fujin) → Concubine Chun → Consort Chun → Noble Consort Chun → Imperial Noble Consort → Imperial Noble Consort Chunhui (posthumous)

A concubine of then-Fourth Prince and eventually promoted to Imperial Noble Consort Chun.

Naïve and kind, she is manipulated often by the women of The Harem to unknowingly help with their machinations and sometimes works against Ruyi for her own agenda. Initially recommended to be the next Empress to succeed Empress Fuca, she fell out of favor but remained an important figure of The Harem when Ruyi became Step Empress. She is a major ally to Ruyi and Noble Consort Yu, and ended up carrying for her former son Prince Yonghuang when she was sent to The Cold Palace. Until the end of her life, she served as her confidant alongside Noble Consort Yu.

She fell from further favor as Ruyi began clashing with Qianlong Emperor and siding with the former. At the end of her life, she was granted the title Imperial Noble Consort but died from illness before her ceremony.

Cao Xiwen[16] Chen Wanyin (陳婉茵) Zhongcui Palace Noble Consort Wan (婉貴妃)
Mistress (Shu Fujin) → Second Attendant Wan → First Attendant Wan → Noble Lady Wan → Concubine Wan → Consort Wan → Noble Consort Wan (posthumous)

A concubine of then-Fourth Prince and eventually promoted to Consort Wan.

Timid and keeping to herself, she yearned to gain the favor of Qianlong Emperor for years. Despite having a good relationship with the Step Empress, Consort Ling manipulated her desire to gain favor and her penmanship skills to further separate Qianlong Emperor from Ruyi and lose custody of Prince Yongji.

Ruyi described Consort Wan as a "rare, good person" and forgave her for her actions before Consort Wan vowed to make amends.

Han Dantong[17] Huang Qiying (黃琦莹) Jingyang Palace
Yanxi Palace
Concubine Yi (儀嬪)
Personal maid of Primary Consort Fuca → Mistress (Shu Fujin) → Noble Lady Yi → Concubine Yi (posthumous)

A maid of Empress Fuca turned concubine of then-Fourth Prince and eventually promoted to Noble Lady Yi.

Empress Fuca and Imperial Noble Consort Hui despised her for receiving favor and caused her to miscarry. She was manipulated to believe that Ruyi was responsible and attempted to assassinate her when they lived together.

Noble Lady Yi committed suicide soon after.

Zeng Yixuan[18] Socolun A'ruo (索索綽倫·阿箬) Qixiang Palace Concubine Shen (慎嬪)
Maid of Consort Xian → Palace maid → First Attendant Shen → Noble Lady Shen → Concubine Shen → Commoner

A former maid of Ruyi named A'ruo promoted to be Concubine Shen.

Originally working for Ruyi, she secretly sided with Empress Fuca and Imperial Noble Consort Hui as a means of climbing up the ranks herself. During Ruyi's time in The Cold Palace, she is able to enter The Harem and promoted to become a concubine despite having no children or reputation. Arrogant, superficial, and sharp-tongued, her role in accusing Ruyi was revealed and she blamed her actions on her former master to avoid implicating Empress Fuca or Imperial Noble Consort Hui. Despite being promoted to Concubine, Qianlong Emperor merely strung her along, which caused her to be hated by The Harem more than envied.

Concubine Shen was sent to The Cold Palace as a commoner and committed suicide shortly after being tortured under Ruyi's orders.

He Hongshan[19] Bai Ruiji (白蕊姬) Yonghe Palace
Anhua Palace
Concubine Mei (玫嬪)
Musician of South Manor → Second Attendant Mei → First Attendant Mei → Noble Lady Mei → Concubine Mei

A musician promoted to be Concubine Mei.

A yueqin player, Concubine Mei was the first of many spies sent by Dowager Empress as a means of controlling The Harem herself. Despite initially being favored, the loss of her child and decline in health led her to lose favor and believe Empress Fuca was responsible for her child's death. Manipulated by Consort Jia, Concubine Mei killed Empress Fuca's son by making him contract smallpox. She was eventually used as a scapegoat by Qianlong Emperor to weaken Empress Dowager's control.

As punishment for her crimes, she is forced to commit suicide and dies while playing her yueqin. Ruyi prepared the death to ensure that Concubine Mei is reunited with her son in the afterlife.

Chen Haoyu[20] Yehe-Nara Yihuan (葉赫那拉·意歡) Chuxiu Palace Consort Shu (舒妃)
Noble Lady Shu → Concubine Shu → Consort Shu

A noble lady promoted to be Consort Shu.

One of Dowager Empress's spies, Consort Shu entered into The Harem and fell in love with Qianlong Emperor at first sight. Straightforward and good-natured, she keeps to herself and believes that her love is reciprocated. However, Qianlong Emperor knew that she was a spy and gave her medicine to prevent her from bearing healthy children from him. She becomes one of Ruyi's allies during her time in The Harem.

Upon learning his true feeling for her and after the death of her son, she becomes mentally unstable and burned herself alive.

Yu Yang[15] Lu Muping (陸沐萍) Jingyang Palace Imperial Noble Consort Qinggong (慶恭皇貴妃)
First Attendant Qing → Noble Lady Qing → Concubine Qing → Noble Lady Qing → Concubine Qing → Consort Qing → Noble Consort Qing → Imperial Noble Consort Qinggong (posthumous)

A daughter of a Deputy Minister promoted to be Noble Consort Qing.

One of Dowager Empress's spies, Noble Consort Qing was also given medicine to prevent her from bearing healthy children for Qianlong Emperor. After falling out of favor, she allies herself with Consort Ling but refuses to cause harm.

She eventually became in charge of raising Consort Ling's son, the future Jiaqing Emperor, after the latter's death.

Liu Meitong[21] Bai'erguosishe (拜爾果斯氏) Xianfu Palace Concubine Ke (恪嬪)
Noble Lady Ke → Concubine Ke

A Mongolian concubine promoted to be Concubine Ke.

The first member of The Harem from Mongolia, she is a descendant of Mongolian Royalty and is close with Noble Consort Ying. She remains loyal to Ruyi and has a great dislike for Consort Ling and Consort Jia.

Zhang Jianing Baarin Meiruo (巴林·湄若) Chuxiu Palace Noble Consort Ying (穎貴妃)
Concubine Ying → Consort Ying → Noble Consort Ying

A Mongolian concubine promoted to be Noble Consort Ying.

Spirited and eloquent yet blunt, she is the second member of The Harem from Mongolia and regarded as a "Southern Beauty" who became very favored by Qianlong Emperor. Like Concubine Ke, she remains loyal to Ruyi and has a great dislike for Consort Ling and Consort Jia. She serves as a representative for all the Mongolian Harem members.

When Consort Ling was initially demoted after the birth of her daughter, Consort Ying adopted the latter under Qianlong's orders.

Zhao Ke[15] Borjigin Eyinzhu (博爾濟吉特·厄音珠) Yonghe Palace Consort Yu (豫妃)
Concubine Yu → Consort Yu

A Mongolian concubine promoted to be Consort Yu.

Arrogant, defiant, and another descendant of Mongolian royalty, she quickly became favored by Qianlong due to her use of aphrodisiacs and as a means of leaking political messages to her own tribe. Under Consort Ling's orders, she masterminded a scathing rumor about Ruyi and Ling Yunche having an affair.

As punishment for spreading the rumor, she was tortured and put under house arrest.

Li Qin[22] Han Xiangjian (寒香見) Chengqian Palace
Baoyue Hall
Consort Rong (容妃)
Princess Xiangjian → Noble Lady Rong → Concubine Rong → Consort Rong

An Uyghur princess promoted to be Consort Rong.

Brought in as a tribute by General Zhaohui after her tribe was defeated by the Qing army, her beauty captivated Qianglong Emperor and enticed fear and jealousy in The Harem as she was quickly promoted and favored. However, she rejects Qianlong's courtship, as she was betrothed to her late lover Han Qi prior to being sent to The Harem, but was encouraged to live on by Ruyi for the sake of her tribe. Her decision to become infertile strained Ruyi and Qianlong Emperor's relationship further.

Despite no longer being able to bear children, she still remained a favored Consort and Qianlong Emperor's voice of reason. It was Consort Rong's love for Han Qi that made Ruyi question her own relationship with Qianlong Emperor

Sun Wenting Lady Lin (林氏) Jingren Palace First Attendant Gong (恭常在)

A lady who enters the harem along with Concubine Ke and First Attendant Xi. Originally siding with Consort Jia, she ended up being close to Consort Ying. She also hates Consort Ling and stays loyal to Ruyi.

Wang Mian Lady Sirin-Gioro (西林覺羅氏) Jingren Palace First Attendant Xi (禧常在)

A lady who enters the harem along with Concubine Ke and First Attendant Gong. Originally siding with Consort Jia, she ended up being close to Consort Ying. She also hates Consort Ling and stays loyal to Ruyi.

Zhu Jue Lady Socolun (索綽倫氏) Jingyang Palace Noble Lady Rui (瑞貴人)

Enters the palace at the same time as Consort Yu. She sides with Consort Ling.

Xia Yuxia Lady Fang (方氏) Yonghe Palace First Attendant Kui (揆常在)
Palace maid → Second Attendant Kui → First Attendant Kui

A former maid who entered the palace when Ruyi is promoted to Imperial Noble Consort.

She sides with Consort Ling.

Zhao Ruoxi Lady Xu (徐氏) Jingyang Palace
Zhongcui Palace
First Attendant Xiu (秀常在)
Second Attendant Xiu → First Attendant Xiu
Qu Rong Lady Qian (錢氏) Yonghe Palace First Attendant Ping (平常在)
Palace maid → Second Attendant Ping → First Attendant Ping

A former maid who entered the palace when Ruyi is promoted to Imperial Noble Consort.

Huang Lulu Lady Bai (白氏) Jingyang Palace First Attendant Bai (白常在)

Entered the palace at the same time as Consort Yu.

Song Qinglin Lady Lu (陸氏) Jingyang Palace First Attendant Lu (陸常在)

Entered the palace at the same times as Consort Yu.

Yang Wanyi First Attendant Wu (武常在)

Another member of Consort Ling's posse.

Gao Rui First Attendant Lu (柏常在)

Another member of Consort Ling's posse.

Sun Wanting First Attendant Ning (寧常在)
Jin Ning First Attendant Fu (福常在)

Members of the imperial family[edit]

Actor Character Residence Introduction
Zhang Fengyi[23] Aisin-Gioro Yinzhen (愛新覺羅·胤禛) Yangxin Hall Yongzheng Emperor (雍正帝)

Father of Qianlong Emperor and the previous Emperor at the beginning of the series.

His decision to take Third Prince out of the line of succession and make Qianlong Emperor his successor forced the latter to initially rescind his decision to make Ruyi his difujin.

He has a soft spot for Ruyi, as he saw how much his son loved her and because she was the neice of Empress Xiaojing, which allowed him to bring Ruyi back as his son's cefujin instead.

Joan Chen[24] Ula-Nara Yixiu (烏拉那拉·宜修) Jingren Palace Empress Xiaojingxian (孝敬憲皇后)

Empress Xiaojing → Empress Xiaojingxian (posthumously)

Aunt of Ruyi, legal mother of Third Prince, and the previous Empress at the beginning of the series.

Initially wanting Ruyi to become Third Prince's difujin and eventually Qianlong Emperor's when she failed the former's bridal selection, Empress Xiaojing was exposed for her role in the previous Empress's death as well as her legal son's attempt at usurping the throne. As a result, Empress Xiaojin was arrested and the Ula-Nara clan's reputation was compromised. It is revealed that then-Consort Xi now Dowager Empress disclosed this information as a means of making Qianlong Emperor succeed the Yongzheng Emperor instead. Qianlong Emperor is torn between giving Empress Xiaojing the posthumous title she deserved and granting Dowager Empress's wishes.

Not wanting two Ula-Nara consorts in The Harem, Dowager Empress asked Ruyi to commit suicide. However, Empress Xiaojing decides to commit suicide herself and tells Ruyi to not be abandoned by Qianglong Emperor before she dies.

Zhu Yan Dowager Concubine Ji (吉太嬪)

A concubine from Yongzheng Emperor's reign who was banished to the Cold Palace. Disillusioned and aged, she meets Ruyi and attempts to assassinate the visiting Dowager Empress. She is later killed for her attempt.

Ruyi's act of bravery to protect Dowager Empress from Dowager Concubine Ji helped influence the latter to bring her back to The Harem.

Li Jie
Ma Qiyue (young)
Aisin-Gioro Hongshi (愛新覺羅·弘時) Hongshi (弘時)

Third Prince of the Yongzheng Emperor and Empress Xiaojin's legal son.

As Qianlong Emperor's half-older brother and initially the successor to the throne, he lost favor after he was caught usurping the throne from the Yongzheng Emperor. He loses his place in the succession while Empress Xiaojin loses her status as Empress. Because of this, Qianlong Emperor became the new successor.

Initially, Ruyi was sent to attend his bridal selection but was unable to be chosen to become his difujin. She disclosed this with Qianlong Emperor that she intentionally failed that bridal selection.

Wang Xiao

Tang Chengjing

Aisin-Gioro Hongzhou (愛新覺羅·弘晝)

Imperial Princess Consort Hegong (吳扎庫氏)

Prince He's Manor Hongzhou (和親王)

Fifth son of the Yongzheng Emperor and Prince He of the First Rank.

As Qianlong Emperor's half-younger brother and initially another member in the line of succession, he chose to let his other brother ascend to the throne instead.

He is married to Imperial Princess Consort Hegong.

Xuan Lu[25] Aisin-Gioro Hengchuo (愛新覺羅·恆娖) Grand Princess[26] Duanshu (端淑長公主)Princess Hengchuo → Grand Princess Duanshu

Oldest daughter of the Yongzhend Emperor and Dowager Empress. Upon her marriage, she became Grand Princess Duanshu.

A younger-half sister of Qianlong Emperor, she was initially married to Khan Dorza and became High Princess of Dzungar Khanate. However, Khan Dorza was killed and his position was usurped by Khan Dawachi, who forced Qianlong to give High Princess Duanshu's hand in marriage in order to maintain peace and possibly prevent her from being mistreated horribly.

Qianlong's decision to hold off on taking his sister back put great strain on his relationship with Dowager Empress, who tried to have Ruyi convince him to take her daughter home. Eventually, he was able to arrest Khan Dawachi and take Grand Princess back to her mother after finally taking him down.

She is revealed to be carrying the child of Khan Dawachi upon her arrival, forcing Qianlong Emperor to not be able to rescind her marriage or separate her from her new husband.

Wang Herun[27] Aisin-Gioro Hengti (愛新覺羅·恆媞) Grand Princess Roushu (柔淑長公主)Princess Hengti → Grand Princess Roushu

Younger daughter of the Yongzhend Emperor and Dowager Empress.

Initially chosen to be part of a marriage alliance to Septeng Baljur, Dowager Empress made Ruyi convince Qianlong Emperor to use his oldest daughter Princess Jingse instead.

Guan Xueying
Wu Yuyu (teen)[28]
Liu Sitong (young)
Aisin-Gioro Jingse (愛新覺羅·璟瑟) Changchun Palace
Third Princess's Manor
Princess Hejing of the First Rank (固倫和敬公主)

Grand Princess Jingse → Princess Hejing of the First Rank

The Third Princess of Qianlong Emperor and Empress Fuca's surviving daughter.

Proud and eloquent, she is the surviving child of Empress Fuca. She looks down on the imperial concubines due to her noble birth and is given high expectations from her mother. She was chosen to be a part of a marriage alliance against Empress Fuca's wishes and became consort to Septeng Baljur.

Princes Jingse grew up resenting Ruyi for not only being her mother's rival but for her role in arranging her marriage, which was revealed to be unhappy after the traumatic birth of her son. After returning home to be with Qianlong Emperor, she initially sided with Consort Ling to take her down. However, she betrays Consort Ling after being convinced by Consort Ying to side with Ruyi instead.

Ding Qiao
Wang Donghe (teen)
Ye Kaiwan (young)
Aisin-Gioro Yonghuang (愛新覺羅·永璜) Prince Bao's Manor
Yanxi Palace
Zhongcui Palace
Prince Ding's Manor
Prince Ding'an of the First Rank (定安親王)

Prince Yonghuang → Prince Ding'an of the First Rank (Posthumously)

The First Prince of Qianlong Emperor and Imperial Noble Consort Zhemin's only son.

Innocent and simple-minded, he was abused and neglected after the death of his birth mother. His personal decision to be adopted by Ruyi caused jealousy from Empress Fuca and Imperial Noble Consort Hui. When Ruyi was sent to live in the Cold Palace, he was then adopted by Imperial Noble Consort Chun.

He grows up to be ambitious and years to succeed his father. However, Consort Jia convinced him that it was Empress Fuca who killed Imperial Noble Consort Zhemin, causing him to not grieve hard enough at Empress Fuca's funeral and ultimately losing favor.

Upon his death, Qianlong Emperor bestowed him the title of Prince Ding'an of the First Rank and forgave him of his offenses.

Ma Yanan Lady Ilari (伊拉里氏) Prince Ding's Manor Yonghuang's primary wife.
Yu Yao Aisin-Gioro Yonglian (愛新覺羅·永琏) Prince Bao's Manor
Changchun Palace
The Study Hall
Crown Prince Duanhui (端慧皇太子)

Prince Yonglian → Crown Prince Duanhui

The Second Prince of Qianlong Emperor and Empress Fuca's oldest son.

He eventually died as a result of weak health and Empress Fuca's bad parenting.

Cheng Xingyuan
Liu Zeyu (teen)
He Luanhui (young)
Aisin-Gioro Yongzhang (愛新覺羅·永璋) Zhongcui Palace
Third Prince's Manor
Prince Xun of the Second Rank (循郡王)

Prince Yongzhang → Prince Xun of the Second Rank

The Third Prince of Qianlong Emperor and Imperial Noble Consort Chun's oldest son.
An ambitious and calculative person, he is goaded by Imperial Noble Consort Chun to compete for the position of the Crown Prince.

He loses favor with Qianlong Emperor after the death of Empress Fuca alongside Prince Yonghuang.

An Jie
Hu Xianxu (teen)[29]
Rong Zishan (young)
Aisin-Gioro Yongcheng (愛新覺羅·永珹) Qixiang Palace
Prince Lü's Manor
Prince Lü of the First Rank (履親王)

Prince Yongcheng → Prince Lü of the First Rank

The Fourth Prince of Qianlong Emperor and Consort Jia's oldest son.

Ambitious, cunning, and calculating, he was initially favored due to being the first son born after Qianlong Emperor's ascension. Alongside his mother, he attempted to help assassinate his father and help gain the position Crown Prince of Joseon.

He becomes the adoptive grandson of Yuntao and received his title of Prince Lü of the First Rank.

Tang Mengjia Lady Irgen-Gioro (伊爾根覺羅氏) Prince Lü's Manor Yongcheng's primary consort.

She was chosen by Consort Jia due to her connections with the royal family and as a means to strengthen Prince Yongcheng's succession to the throne. Once Consort Jia was demoted to commoner, Lady Irgen-Gioro showed distain towards her mother-in-law, which Prince Yongcheng doesn't take kindly of.

Qu Chuxiao[30]
Bian Cheng (teen)
Wuze Jinxi (young)
Aisin-Gioro Yongqi (愛新覺羅·永琪) Yanxi Palace
Yikun Palace
Prince Rong's Manor
Chonghua Palace
Prince Rong of the First Rank (荣親王)

Prince Yongqi → Prince Rong of the First Rank

The Fifth Prince of Qianlong Emperor and Noble Consort Yu's only son.

Sensitive and intelligent, he becomes Qianlong's favorite son and adopted by Ruyi, but began distancing himself from her after hearing rumors and accusations. He is revealed to be skilled and capable but hides his true talents to avoid jealousy or making Qianlong Emperor feel threatened.

He dies due to recurring bone cellulitis caused by Consort Ling's actions and his death was blamed by Ruyi.

Li Yiru Lady Sirin-Gioro (西林覺羅氏) Prince Rong's Manor Prince Yongqi's primary consort.
Janice Wu[31] Hu Yunjiao (胡芸角) Prince Rong's Manor Prince Yongqi's concubine.

Manipulated by Consort Ling into thinking that Ruyi killed her mother, she is ordered to sow discord between Prince Yongqi and Ruyi. Her actions caused Qianlong Emperor to distrust Ruyi further.

Zhang Jinze
Zhou Jinshi (teen)
Chixu Xuanzhe (young)
Aisin-Gioro Yongrong (愛新覺羅·永瑢) Zhongcui Palace Prince Shen of the Second Rank (慎郡王)

The Sixth Prince of Qianlong Emperor and Imperial Noble Consort Chun's youngest son.

He Xinrui Aisin-Gioro Jingyan (愛新覺羅·璟妍) Zhongcui Palace Princess Hejia of the Second Rank (和碩和嘉公主)

The Fourth Princess of Qianlong Emperor and Imperial Noble Consort Chun's only daughter.

Ma Boquan
Ha Lin (young)
Aisin-Gioro Yongxuan (愛新覺羅·永璇) Qixiang Palace
The Study Hall
Shoukang Palace
Prince Yi of the First Rank (儀親王)

Prince Yongxuan → Princess Yi of the First Rank.

The Eighth Prince of Qianlong Emperor and Consort Jia's second son. Due to Consort Ling's actions, he becomes crippled and contributed to Consort Jia's mental decline.

Dongli Wuyou
Zhang Yaoyang (young)
Aisin-Gioro Yongxing (愛新覺羅·永瑆) Qixiang Palace
Shoukang Palace
Prince Cheng of the First Rank (成親王)

The Eleventh Prince of Qianlong Emperor and Consort Jia's youngest son.

Xu Lingchen
Ye Shengtong (teen)
Lin Jingjie (young)
Aisin-Gioro Yongji (愛新覺羅·永璂) Yikun Palace
Yanxi Palace
Prince Yongji (永璂)

The Twelfth Prince of Qianlong Emperor and Ruyi's only surviving son. The Qianlong Emperor had high expectations on his son and often compared him to Fifth Prince. Prince Yongji was suspected to be a product of an alleged affair between Ruyi and Ling Yunche, causing further strain on Ruyi's relationship with Qianlong Emperor and Ling Yunche to be castrated.

Lin Jingyi Aisin-Gioro Jingsi (愛新覺羅·璟兕) Yikun Palace Princess Heyi of the First Rank (固倫和宜公主)

Princess Jingsi → Princess Heyi of the First Rank

The Fifth Princess of Qianlong Emperor and Ruyi's only daughter.

Born with a weak heart, she was startled by Consort Jia's dog via Consort Ling's machination, causing her to become comatose and pass away shortly after. Her death caused Consort Jia to spiral further down into mental decline and ultimately her downfall.

Jin Ziqi Aisin-Gioro Jingyuan (愛新覺羅·璟妧) Yongshou Palace
Chuxiu Palace
Princess Hejing of the First Rank (固倫和静公主)

Princess Jingyuan → Princess Hejing of the First Rank

The Seventh Princess of Qianlong Emperor and Consort Ling's oldest daughter.

After her mother's demotion, she was sent to be raised by Consort Ying and considers the latter as her biological mother. She dislikes Consort Ling due to her actions against Ruyi.

Consort Ling attempted to take her daughter back but her attempt proved her inability to control The Harem and led to her disrespecting Dowager Empress.

Chen Yuan'er[32] Aisin-Gioro Jingyun (愛新覺羅·璟妘) Yongshou Palace
Xianfu Palace
Princess Heke of the Second Rank (和碩和恪公主)

Princess Jingyun → Princess Hejing of the Second Rank

The Ninth Princess of Qianlong Emperor and Consort Ling's youngest daughter.

Like her older sister, Princess Jingyun was separated from Consort Ling at a young age and raised by Concubine Ke.

Wei Zihan
Chen Xuetao (young)
Aisin-Gioro Yongyan (愛新覺羅永琰) Yongshou Palace
Xiefang Palace
Zhongcui Palace
Prince Jia's Manor
Prince Jia of the First Rank (嘉親王)

Prince Yongyan → Prince Jia of the First Rank → Jiaqing Emperor

The Fifteenth Prince of Qianlong Emperor and Consort Ling's youngest son. He ends up succeeding the Qianlong Emperor.

Tang Jiaze Borjigin Qingyou (孛兒只斤·慶佑) Yikun Palace Only son of Princess Jingse.

When his mother returned to live with the Imperial Family, he came along with her.

Officials[edit]

Actor Character Introduction
Qin Yan Zhang Tingyu (張廷玉) Member of the Grand Council.
He dislikes the Empress Dowager and often goes against her opinions.
Jia Tinglong Fuca Fuheng (富察·傅恆) A senior officer and commander-in-chief.

He is the brother of Empress Fuca.

Gao Lancun Gao Bin (高斌) Qianlong Emperor's most trusted minister.

He is the father of Imperial Noble Consort Hui.

Wang Jinsong Ula-Nara Na'erbu (烏拉那拉·那爾布) Qianlong Emperor's left Minister.

He is the father of Ruyi. While Ruyi was in The Cold Palace, he passed away and Ruyi blamed herself for his death.

Ma Weifu Liu Tongxun (劉統勛) Minister of the Eight Banners.
Huang Wei Niohuru Naqin (鈕祜祿·訥親) Minister of the Eight Banners.

Close relative of the Empress Dowager.

Zhang Xingzhe Zhao Hui (兆惠)
Wu Lihua Yue Zhongqi (岳鐘琪)

Female servants[edit]

Actor Character Residence Introduction
Chen Xiaoyun[33] Suoxin (惢心) Yanxi Palace
Yikun Palace
Personal Maid → Senior Maid → Retired

Observant and kind-hearted, she is Ruyi's maid and remains loyal to Ruyi. It is Suoxin who stays with her at The Cold Palace and became her senior maid after they left. Due to Consort Jia's actions, Suoxin was tortured and disabled, causing her to leave her position. For her servitude and sacrifice, Ruyi allowed her to marry Doctor Jiang Yubin, who Suoxin liked, and became his primary wife. She occasionally visits Ruyi after her marriage. Suoxin was a part of Ruyi's funeral when she passed away.

Qi Huan[15] Rong Pei (容珮) Yikun Palace Maid of Clothes Washing Division → Senior Maid

Loyal, firm, and sharp-tongued, Rongpei was an orphan who spent her life working as a maid for the Qing and was serving in the Clothes Washing Division when she first met Ruyi. Like Suoxin, she is loyal to Ruyi and became her senior maid after displaying her proactive nature. She becomes one of the last maids to be able to serve Ruyi during her house arrest. It was reported that Rongpei committed suicide after Ruyi's death.

Zheng Shuijing[34] Lingzhi (菱枝) Yikun Palace A maid of Ruyi.
Chen Erjia Yunzhi (芸枝) Yikun Palace A maid of Ruyi.
Li Linfei Shuizhi (水芝) Yanxi Palace A maid of Ruyi.
Gong Xiaoxuan[15] Yuhu (毓瑚) Yangxin Hall A maid of Qianlong Emperor.

Formerly a maid for his birth mother, she became his assistant in terms of keeping an eye on his internal affairs.

Guo Hong[35] Fujia (福珈) Shoukang Palace
Cining Palace
Personal maid of Dowager Empress.
Zhang Yanyan Xiuxia (繡夏) Jingren Palace Personal maid of Empress Xiaojing.

After Empress Xiaojing's suicide, it was resported that Xiuxia also committed suicide afterwards.

Min Chunxiao[36] Sulian (素練) Changchun Palace Personal maid of Empress Fuca.

Loyal to Empress Fuca, Sulian often helps her plot against the other consorts. She is later killed by Consort Jia's maid Zhenshu.

Wang Xiaocheng Lianxin (蓮心) Changchun Palace Personal maid of Empress Fuca.

In exchange for Wang Qin's loyalty, she is married to him at Empress Fuca's approval. However, her marriage was abusive and Ruyi was able to help her get out of it in exchange for helping Ruyi clear her name. Her marriage was null by Qianlong Emperor after exposing her husband's true nature. When Empress Fuca fell into the water, she chose to not rescue her and she is also suspected of being involved in the death of Prince Yonglian. She later committed suicide out of guilt.

Liu Jia Yexin (葉心) Xianfu Palace
Yanxi Palace
Personal maid of Noble Consort Yu.
Zhang Huanhuan Xiangyun (香雲) Xianfu Palace
Yanxi Palace
A maid of Noble Consort Yu.

After framing Noble Consort Yu of stealing charcoal, she was executed by Qianlong Emperor as punishment for her disloyalty.

Li Bingyi Zezhi (澤芝) Xianfu Palace
Yanxi Palace
A maid of Ruyi, later sent to serve Noble Consort Yu.
Guo Yuanyuan Zhenshu/Jung Suk (貞淑/정숙) Qixiang Palace Personal maid of Jin Yuyan.

A highly skilled uinyeo (female physician) from Joseon, she is skilled in medical treatment, cooking, fighting, and calligraphy. Because of this, she was able to frame Ruyi for her affair with visiting monk Anji Bosang.

Once her crime was revealed, she was banished and sent back to Joseon.

Xia Nan[15] Lixin (麗心) Qixiang Palace Personal maid of Consort Jia.
Zhou Xiaoqin[37] Palace maid Yan (妍宫女) Qixiang Palace A maid of Consort Jia.
Sun Qianqian[38] Moxin (茉心) Xianfu Palace Personal maid of Imperial Noble Consort Hui.
After her death, she sought revenge by colluding with Concubine Mei to pass on smallpox to Seventh Prince, leading to his death.
Li Mengyang Xingxuan (星璇) Xianfu Palace A maid of Imperial Noble Consort Hui.
Wang Chun (王純) Chunchan (春嬋) Yongshou Palace Personal attendant of Wei Yanwan. Often the mastermind behind Wei Yanwan's schemes. She is almost murdered by Yanwan. She later exposes Wei Yanwan's evil doings to the Emperor.
Yang Liu Lancui (瀾翠) Yongshou Palace A maid of Consort Ling.

She is used by Consort Ling to threaten imperial guard Zhao Jiuxiao into harming Prince Yongxuan.

She is eventually sent to The Punishment Bureau for torture and dies afterwards.

Bai Lan[39] Kexin (可心) Zhongcui Palace Personal maid of Imperial Noble Consort Chen.
Ding Liuyan Suyun (俗雲) Yonghe Palace
Anhua Palace
Personal maid of Concubine Mei.
Shi Min Hexi (荷惜) Chuxiu Palace Personal maid of Consort Shu.
Zhang Xinying Xinyan (新燕) Qixiang Palace Personal maid of Concubine Shen.
Wang Jingya[40] Shunxin (順心) Zhongcui Palace Personal maid of Noble Consort Wan.
Wang Xinwen Abao (阿寶) Chuxiu Palace Personal maid of Consort Ying.
Zhang Menghan Xianfu Palace Personal maid of Kezhuzi.
Chen Mengxi Xipo (喜珀) Chengqian Palace
Baoyue Hall
Personal maid of Consort Rong.
Gao Dongyu Hali (哈麗) Chengqian Palace
Baoyue Hall
A maid of Consort Rong.
Zhang Xinyuan Guli (古麗) Chengqian Palace
Baoyue Hall
A maid of Consort Rong.
Ma Lan Jingyang Palace Personal maid of Imperial Noble Consort Qing.
Huang Wen[41] Huaixin (怀心) Jingyang Palace
Yanxi Palace
Personal maid of Concubine Yi.
Zhao Jing Duoyun (朵雲) Yonghe Palace Personal maid of Consort Yu.
Jin Xi Duoyan (朵顏) Yonghe Palace Personal maid of Consort Yu.
Tian Miao Nursemaid Tian (田嬷嬷) N/A Nursemaid and mother of Prince Yongqi's concubine.

She was used by Consort Ling to commit various actions.

Male servants[edit]

Actor Character Residence Introduction
Imperial guards, physicians and others
Yuan Wenkang[15] Jiang Yubin (江與彬) N/A An imperial physician and Ruyi's most trusted doctor.

Childhood sweethearts with Suoxin, he requested her hand in marriage after treating her injuries after she was tortured.

Meng Zhaozhong Zhao Jiuxiao (趙九霄) Kunning Palace An imperial guard and friend of Ling Yunche.

Due to his affections to Lancui, he is threatened by Consort Ling to frame Ruyi for her role in harming Prince Yongxuan.

Wang Quanyou Qi Ru (齊汝) N/A Head imperial physician.

At Dowager Empress's order, he secretly weakened Imperial Noble Consort Hui's health and helped Consort Shu become pregnant. His actions infuriated Qianlong Emperor and he is killed under the guise of an accidental drowning.

Ha Yingqun Imperial astronomer (欽天監) N/A
Steven Thomas Boergadine Giuseppe Castiglione (郎世宁) N/A A royal Jesuit painter from Italy.

He is tasked to paint portraits for Qianlong Emperor and his consorts and occasionally interacts with the Imperial Family. When asked to pain Ruyi and Qianlong Emperor for the first time, he suggested the two hold hands.

His portrait painting of the royal couple was sent to Ruyi by Qianlong Emperor as a peace offering, to which Ruyi responded by burning her side of the painting. When asked to fix the painting, Giuseppe stated that it could not be done to exactly what it was.

Jin Song Li Jinzhu (李金柱) N/A A guard at the Cold Palace.
Wang Liusheng Physician Zhao (趙太醫) N/A
Feng Bao Physician Bao (包太醫) N/A
Wang Zhimin Physician Xu (許太醫) N/A
Huang Ningsheng Physician Zhao (曹太醫) N/A
Xu Zhiming Er'tao (二套) N/A
Eunuchs
Shen Baoping Su Peisheng (蘇培盛) Yangxin Hall Personal attendant of the Yongzheng Emperor.
Huang Ming[42] Li Yu (李玉) Yangxin Hall Deputy head eunuch of Yangxin Hall → Head eunuch of Yangxin Hall → Eunuch of Yuanming Garden → Head eunuch of Yangxin Hall
A personal attendant of Qianlong Emperor.

He often assists Ruyi because she once lent him a helping hand.

Hu Ming[43] Wang Qin (王欽) Yangxin Hall Head eunuch of Yangxin Hall and a personal attendant of Qianlong Emperor.

He forced Lianxin into marrying him by agreeing to work for Empress Fuca. It was his carelessness that led Ruyi to be accused of gossiping about Concubine Mei's dead child. Lianxin eventually disclosed to Ruyi about his abusive behavior, allowing Ruyi to conduct a plan that successfully clears her name and free Lianxin of her marriage by making him sexually harass Imperial Noble Consort Hui in a drunken state.

He is sentenced to death and his marriage was nulled by Qianlong Emperor's orders.

Jiang Xueming[15] Jinzhong (進忠) Yangxin Hall An attendant of Qianlong and Li Yu's disciple.

Obsessed with Consort Ling since her time as Consort Jia's maid, he strikes a deal to help her rise in ranking. Lecherous and ambitious, he helps Consort Ling achieve her goals but is ultimately betrayed and killed by her in the end.

Zhang Juju Jinbao (進保) Yangxin Hall An attendant of Qianlong and Li Yu's disciple.
Han Yu Xiao Linzi (小林子) Yangxin Hall An attendant of Qianlong.
Li Qi[44] San Bao (三寶) Yanxi Palace
Yikun Palace
Personal attendant of Ruyi.
Gao Weibo Xiao Fuzi (小福子) Yanxi Palace An attendant of Ruyi.
Chen Zhuo Wu Fu (五福) Yanxi Palace Personal attendant of Noble Consort Yu
Zhong Weihua Cheng Han (成翰) Shoukang Palace
Cining Palace
Personal attendant of the Dowager Empress
Ma Bo Zhao Yitai (趙一泰) Changchun Palace Personal attendant of Empress Fuca.
Liu Zikai Qian Shuangxi (錢雙喜) Xianfu Palace Personal attendant of Imperial Noble Consort Hui.
Chen Muyi[45] Wang Chan (王蟾) Yongshou Palace Personal attendant of Consort Ling.
Wang Peidong Xiao Lizi (小栗子) Zhongcui Palace Personal attendant of Imperial Noble Consort Chun → Eunuch of the Study Room → Eunuch of the 12th Prince.
Yang Shuo Xu An (徐安) N/A Head Eunuch of the Internal Affairs Department.
Yu Tong Qin Li (秦立) N/A Eunuch of the Internal Affairs Department.
Yang Yang Xiao Lüzi (小祿子) N/A Eunuch of the Imperial Kitchen.
Zhang Shu Xiao Anzi (小安子) N/A Eunuch of the Internal Affairs Department.
A Xing Xiao Leizi (小磊子) Prince Rong Manor Personal attendant of Yongqi.
Chang Cheng Xiao Guizi (小貴子)
Wang Zhen Xiao Shunzi (小順子)
Ma Xin
Li Pengwu
Xiao Lezi (小樂子)
Liu Xue Eunuch Ma (馬公公) N/A

Others[edit]

Actor Character Introduction
Wang Wei Sakda Miaoqian (薩克達·茂倩) Daughter of an official and Ling Yunche's wife.

Due to her background as a member of the eight banner, she looks down on her husband and is jealous of his feelings towards Ruyi. She collaborated with She is bethrothed to Ling Yunche. Due to her background as one of the ladies of the eight banners, she looks down on Ling Yunche and does not have a good relationship with him. Because of her jealousy, she collaborates with Consort Yu to accuse him of having an affair with Ruyi. Her actions caused her to be exiled.

Yu Shaoqun Anji Bosang (安吉波桑) A Grand Master monk from Nanyu Holy Place that came to visit shortly after Ruyi became Imperial Noble Consort.

Attractive and venerated by the public, Consort Jia orchestrated a rumor that he and Ruyi were having an affair by planting false evidence. The accusation led to Suoxin to be tortured but Consort Jia to be demoted once her plans were exposed.

Zhang Yuxi[31] Shui Linglong (水玲珑) A famous courtesan favored by Qianlong Emperor.

Consort Ling arranged her and various other courtesans to occupy Qianlong Emperor, leading to Ruyi's final argument with him when she confronted him about his interactions with the women. Linglong and various other courtesans were sent to Nian Temple to become nuns.

Li Guangjie Prince Yu (朝鮮世子/玉氏王爺) Crown Prince of Joseon and future King of Joseon.

Rumored to be cruel, he was Consort Jia's first love. However, he refuses to reciprocate his affections due to Consort Jia's true lineage.

Fang Xiaoli Madame Na (那夫人) Ruyi's mother.
Cai Wenyan Madame Fuca (富察夫人) Empress Fuca's mother.
Meng Xiu Madame Wei (衛夫人) Consort Lings's mother.

A greedy and obnoxious woman, she tries to push her daughter into achieving higher for her personal gains. She ultimately takes the blame for harming Ruyi's children and is forced to commit suicide.

Song Jiateng Keliyete Zhaqi (珂里葉特·扎齊) Noble Consort Yu's nephew.

A greedy man, he was manipulated by Consort Ling into framing his aunt for harming Ruyi's children.

Xu Xiaoning Wei Zuolu (衛佐祿) Consort Ling's younger brother.

A disgraced criminal, Zuolu was brought in by Noble Consort Yu as a witness to Consort Ling's crimes.

Wu Rige Borjigin Saisang Gendun (孛兒只斤·賽桑根敦) Ruler of the Mongol Khorchin tribe and Consort Yu's father.
Liu Jun Han Ati (寒阿提) Ruler of the Han tribe and Consort Rong's father.
Wang Leifang Han Qi (寒企) Consort Rong's first love and late fiancé.

He was killed by an avalanche while trying to take Consort Rong back. Consort Rong refers to him as her youthful lover.

Liu Yupu Demuqiseyinchake (德穆齊塞音察克) Concubine Ke's father.
Zhang Xiaolin Anduo (安多) Anji Bosang's disciple.
Huang Deyi Tian Jun (田俊) Nursemaid Tian's son and Hu Yunjiao's brother.
Fang Yuchen Yao'er (桃兒) Madam Wei's maid.

Production[edit]

Crew[edit]

The series is directed by Wang Jun,[46] produced by Huang Lan,[47] and written by the author of the original novel Liu Lianzi.[48] It also employed William Chang and Tongxun Chen as their overall style director,[49] Han Zhong as art director and Peng Xuejun as cinematography director.[50]

Development[edit]

Wu Xuelan, also known as Liu Lianzi, started to write the original novel in 2011, and changed her work several times to achieve the best version in the next five years.[51]

New Classics Media picked up the series for a 90–episode season (later shortened to 87), with a ¥300 million budget, making it the most expensive television series in China.[52]

Casting[edit]

On January 14, 2016, it was announced that Zhou Xun will play the leading role of the Step Empress.[53] The role of the Qianlong Emperor, the male lead, was announced to be portrayed by Wallace Huo on May 27.[54] On August 3, actors Janine Chang, Vivian Wu, Dong Jie, Tong Yao, Jing Chao, Xin Zhilei, Li Chun, Zeng Yixuan and Chen Haoyu were cast in major supporting roles for the drama.[55] Around 5,000 actors competed for roles in the drama.[citation needed]

Filming[edit]

Shooting began on 23 August 2016 and took place in various locations including Hengdian World Studios, Beijing, Inner Mongolia, and Hangzhou.[56] The series wrapped up filming on May 5, 2017.[57]

Soundtrack[edit]

No.TitleLyricsMusicSingersLength
1."Double Shadow (双影)" (Theme song (Ending theme episode 47 onwards))Yi JiayangDing Wei & Jim LeeA-mei & Sandy Lam 
2."Incense & Fleeting Years (沉香流年)" (Opening theme song (episode 1–46))Yi MingYi Ming & Wang YaoguangLei Jia 
3."Like the Fragrance of Plum Blossoms We Once Knew (梅香如故)" (Ending theme song (episode 1–38, 40–46))Lv JingyeChen ShimeiMao Buyi & Zhou Shen 
4."Things stay the same, but people have changed (人非物是)" (Opening theme (episode 47 onwards)) Chen ShimeiAsia Philharmonic Orchestra 
5."Worries (心事)" (Ending theme song (episode 39 only))Lv JingyeYan QingDeng Tongtian 

Reception[edit]

The series received mixed responses from viewers.

Many felt underwhelmed by the unaggressive heroine, who was not able to face off the villain consorts even in the second half of the drama, thus making her character design flawed and unconvincing. The drama was also criticized for its anticlimactic story and depressive tone. Critics felt that it was ironic and unbelievable for the protagonist to pursue monogamy in a highly feudalistic context. The slow pacing in the first half of the drama was pointed out, with critics believing that the screenwriters neglected to write with compact story-telling to flesh out the characters.[58]

The series has also received criticism over the age of the leading performers, with viewers saying they made unconvincing teenagers, and criticized the series' producers for not using younger actors to portray the lovestruck teens. Viewers were also divided over the lack of dubbing for Zhou Xun's 15-year-old character, as they felt that her voice was "too raspy" and "mature" for a teenager.[59]

However, there were also praises for the drama. Zhang Hanyue, a writer and critic, said "The show becomes more and more heart-tugging as the story goes deeper." Many viewers agree that Ruyi bears many characteristics of a modern female. Vogue magazine commented that the drama actually recorded "the failure of a high-end girl" because what Ruyi had been pursuing was spiritual connections with her spouse; and such a pursuit represents the taste and ideal of the modern middle class.[citation needed] Critics agree that the drama introduces a new light to and narrative of palace dramas, deviating from the existing patterns of treacherous harem games.[60] The drama won acclaim for its exquisite props, lavish sets, and stellar cast.[61]

Censorship[edit]

On January 25, 2019 the Beijing Daily, an official government newspaper, criticized the program for failing to promote socialist values.[62] Four days later, on January 29, the Chinese government cancelled the program and similar programs such as Story of Yanxi Palace.[63] CNN and other media outlets quickly reported on this incident, calling it Chinese censorship.[64][65]

Ratings[edit]

Dragon TV ratings[66]
Broadcast date Episode Ratings (%) Audience share (%) Rank (excluding CCTV) Rank (including CCTV)
2018.12.25 1–4 0.247 2.86 3 9
2018.12.26 5–8 0.306 3.42 1 4
2018.12.27 9–12 0.359 3.93 1 3
2018.12.28 13–16 0.291 3.20 2 6
2018.12.29 17–20 0.368 3.69 1 5
2018.12.30 21–24 0.455 3.79 1 3
2018.12.31 25–28 0.556 4.56 1 3
2019.1.1 29–32 0.557 4.36 1 3
2019.1.2 33–36 0.536 5.77 1 2
2019.1.3 37–40 0.467 5.22 1 2
2019.1.4 41–44 0.553 Not available 1 1
2019.1.5 45–48 0.550 1 1
2019.1.6 49–52 0.515 1 1
2019.1.7 53–56 0.551 5.99 1 2
2019.1.8 57–60 0.496 5.52 1 2
2019.1.9 61–64 0.500 5.29 1 3
2019.1.10 65–68 0.472 5.16 1 2
2019.1.11 69–72 0.482 5.05 1 2
2019.1.12 73–76 0.554 4.87 1 2
2019.1.13 77–80 0.611 5.38 1 1
2019.1.14 81–84 0.610 6.61 1 2
2019.1.15 85–87 0.623 6.29 1 1
Average ratings 0.485 4.79
Jiangsu TV ratings[66]
Broadcast date Episode Ratings (%) Audience share (%) Rank (excluding CCTV) Rank (including CCTV)
2018.12.25 1–4 0.181 2.115 4 11
2018.12.26 5–8 0.178 2.011 4 10
2018.12.27 9–12 0.171 1.884 5 12
2018.12.28 13–16 0.208 2.313 5 11
2018.12.29 17–20 0.200 Not available
2018.12.30 21–24 0.292 2.437 3 6
2018.12.31 25–28 0.295 2.431 3 6
2019.1.1 29–32 0.298 2.343 3 5
2019.1.2 33–36 0.231 2.354 4 9
2019.1.3 37–40 0.170 Not available
2019.1.4 41–44 0.186
2019.1.5 45–48 0.266
2019.1.6 49–52 0.223
2019.1.7 53–56 0.215 2.314 3 11
2019.1.8 57–60 0.215 2.315 3 11
2019.1.9 61–64 0.216 2.186 3 10
2019.1.10 65–68 0.181 1.948 5 11
2019.1.11 69–72 0.180 1.837 6 12
2019.1.12 73–76 0.189 1.728 4 11
2019.1.13 77–80 0.206 1.866 5 11
2019.1.14 81–84 0.208 2.221 3 9
2019.1.15 85–87 0.265 2.826 2 8
Average ratings 0.217

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Category Nominated work Result Ref.
24th Huading Awards Best Director Wang Jun Nominated [67]
Best Actor Wallace Huo Nominated
12th Tencent Video Star Awards Best Web Drama Ruyi's Royal Love in the Palace Won [68]
Golden Bud – The Third Network Film And Television Festival Top 10 Web Drama Won [69]
Influence of Recreational Responsibilities Awards Web Drama of the Year Won [70]
2nd Asian Academy Creative Awards Best Leading Actress Zhou Xun Won [71]

International broadcast[edit]

On 10 June 2016, Fox Networks Group Asia (FNG) acquired global rights outside mainland China to the series.[72] It was the first epic period drama secured by FNG for markets outside China, and was carried by STAR Chinese Channel (SCC), the flagship Chinese general entertainment channel, starting 20 August 2018 in selected countries, rerun on August 6, 2019, in all countries for return a year.[73]

From 27 November 2018, it aired on Fox Taiwan. From 27 December 2018, it aired on Talentvision Canada. To date it has debuted in 18 countries and regions, including the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan and Philippines.[74]

Region Network Dates Notes
 United States Fox Networks Group channels August 20, 2018 Dubbed in English.
 Hong Kong and Southeast Asia Star Chinese Channel August 20, 2018 – December 18, 2018 Re-run on 6 August 2019 at 15:00 and next day at 01:00 in all countries.
 Hong Kong TVB Jade February 4, 2019 – March 19, 2019 Monday to Saturday (120 minutes), Sunday (60 minutes).
myTV SUPER August 20, 2018 – October 15, 2018
 Vietnam HTV7 September 1, 2018 Airs Monday to Saturday at 13:00. Dubbed with Vietnamese.
H1 – Hanoi Radio Television March 26, 2019 – June 20, 2019 Airs every day at 13:00. Original language with Vietnamese voiceover (dual sound).
Vie DRAMAS March 23, 2019 – June 17, 2019 Airs every day at 19:00. Dubbed in Vietnamese.
 Taiwan Fox Taiwan November 27, 2018 Original language.
iQIYI Taiwan August 20, 2018 – October 15, 2018 Original language.
CTV October 2, 2020 Airs Monday to Friday at 20:00–22:00. Original Language.
Chung T'ien Television February 18, 2021 Airs Monday to Friday at 21:00–22:00. Original language.
 Canada Talentvision Canada December 27, 2018 Dubbed in English.
 Japan WOWOW TV May 29, 2019
 Malaysia Shuang Xing August 20, 2018 – November 14, 2018 First-run (simulcast). Original Language.
April 5, 2020 Airs every day at 19:00–20:00. Second-run (re-run). Original language.
8TV July 6, 2021 Airs Monday to Friday at 18:00–18:58. Original language.

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