The Legend of Zhen Huan


Reviewed by: sukting

August 24, 2013

Rating: four-point-five

Year produced 2012
How long 76 episodes

Foreword
A young woman born of Eight Banners family marries the Emperor. After surviving through many murderous scandals and betrayals, she prevails as the most powerful woman in the Emperor's harem, the Empress dowager. In the process, she transforms from a kind-hearted, clever girl to a power hungry, manipulative woman. It is translated by a novel of the same title written by Liu Jian Zi.

Story/Introduction on characters
1. Sun Li as Zhen Huan
She is an offical's daughter who joins in the selection, wanting to be eliminated. She is talented in all areas – dancing, chess playing, zither playing and painting. She only applies little make-up and dresses simply. The emperor notices her wits and her beauty to select her. He also knows Yuan Dao's talents and keeps her in the palace. She joins forces with Mei Zhuang and Ling Rong. She is entangled in the war between Hua Fei and the empress.

Mei Zhuang keeps getting humiliated in the palace and is even framed. Huan has a miscarriage after being framed even though she is pregnant for the first time. She is late to greet Hua Fei and Hua Fei punishes her to kneel outside her palace to recite poetry under the hot sun. She has a heatstroke. Hua Fei's palace has 歡宜香 and LingRong also sends the poisonous 舒痕膠 to her so she loses her baby.

Ling Rong changes sides to be with the empress. The innocent Huan becomes alert to use her wits to defeat Hua Fei. Yi Xiu is afraid she will be the next Hua Fei so she accuses her of being disrespectful to the late Empress Chun Yuan by wearing her clothes.

Huan loses favour and knows that she is pregnant again. She realizes that she is popular as she resembles Chun Yuan in looks. After she gives birth to Princess Long Yue, she chooses to reside in Gan Lu temple as her father is also put on exile and it is useless of her to keep pleading with Yong Zheng. She is being bullied at the temple. Luckily, Guo Jun Wang takes care of her and both fall in love, wanting to escape together.

Guo Jun Wang's fake death news spread in the palace when he is on a mission. Huan wants to seek revenge for him and also wants to reserve their baby which is in her stomach. So she devises a plot to meet Yong Zheng to return to the palace. The empress dowager agrees to it but Yong Zheng wants her to lie that she is Hong Li's biological mother. The day she returns to the palace with their twins is also the day Guo Jun Wang returns alive. Both blame it on the fate which toys with their lives.

She is adamant to protect her loved ones and thus cuts off ties with him. The empress dowager dies and the rivalry between concubines becomes more intense. Lan Yi is angered to know that Guo Jun Wang is in love with Huan so she uses her cat to scare her. She has intense labour and gives birth to a boy – sixth prince, Hong Zhan and a girl, Ling Xi.

Yi Xiu is childless and worries that her position will not be hers for long. Then she schemes with Ling Rong to frame Huan but in vain. Huan is pregnant again but Shi Chu tells her that her constitution is too weak and it can't be retained after 5 months. So she pretends to quarrel with Yi Xiu to cause her to hit her stomach so as to have the miscarriage. When Yong Zheng lets Yi Xiu off on Chun Yuan's sake, Huan discovers the truth to cause Yi Xiu to be banished.

The rebels want Huan to be married into their clan. Guo Jun Wang begs on her behalf and Yong Zheng discovers their intimacy. His health is weakened due to exhaustion and keeps drinking portions to want a long life. He wants to force Huan to kill Yun Li but Huan can't bring herself to do it. She intends to drink the poisonous wine herself. Yun Li switches the wine and dies on her behalf.

Huan is grieved and vows revenge. After killing Yong Zheng, Hong Li becomes the emperor and she is the empress dowager. To protect Yun Li's only son Hong Zhan, she puts him under her sister's care and not to be involved in politics. Her rivals and friends are all dead so her life is lonely now.

Many might say that Li is lucky get this meaty role but all can't deny that she is indeed a credible and hardworking actress who makes this drama work. As the main lead, the attention is on her. Moreover, she has to start from a 17 year old Huan to Huan in her later years. It is not an easy task but she overcomes all the challenges to win numerous awards for it.

2. Chen Jian Bin as Emperor Yong Zheng

He loves Chun Yuan Empress and adores Huan as she resembles Chun Yuan. He calls her Concubine Wan as Wan is Chun Yuan's nickname. He doesn't wear the new robes that Huan or Ling Rong sews for him. He prefers wearing what Chun Yuan has swen for him and still dons them after many years. He is aware of the power struggles between his wives but closes an eye to this. He will not hesitate to behead the innocent in order to protect the royal family's name or to avoid offending his powerful officials.

That is why Hua Fei can get away so many times due to her elder brother. When Yong Zheng is old, he mistrusts the Taoist to eat mercuy pills and smells cinnabars. When he is weakened, he is killed by Huan and Lan Yi. His Yong Zheng is definitely different from other versions. The air of loyalty is there which most young actors can't match up to it. I can only think of Chen Dao Ming to be on par.

3. Choi Siu Fun as Empress Yi Xiu

Her elder sister, Chun Yuan is bore by the first wife while she is the daughter of the second wife. Yong Zheng treats Chun Yuan as his only wife. She is perfect in dance, zither player, chess playing and drawing. She is also a fantastic dancer.

Yi Xiu is married as the second wife due to the status even though she is also pregnant. Jealous with Chun Yuan, she adds nuts and bananas to Chun Yuan's diet to cause Chun Yuan's death. Chun Yuan's son is also stillborn but she urges Yong Zheng to take care of Yi Xiu. Chun Yuan only has the queen status after her death and when Yong Zheng becomes the emperor.

Yi Xiu tolerates all these and when Hua Fei wants to surpass her, she bears with it to only use half of her power to suppress her. But towards Huan, she uses all her might as she feels very threatened. She makes Huan totally give up on Yong Zheng and gets someone to frame Yuan Dao to get demoted. She also makes use of Ling Rong to reveal that Yuan Dao is imprisoned and be trapped by mice.

I must say that she has killed the innocent and kind Huan. Yi Xiu only gets respect and not love from Yong Zheng. When she becomes the queen, she is already old and is childless. So she has to swallow her jealousy to see how he mingles with the young. So she treasures her power. She makes Concubine Qi kill herself so that she can be the foster mother of Hong Shi, the third prince.

She seems to be a righteous leader but she is evil and scheming. She wants full control and guards against any pregnant concubine. When Yong Zheng learns about it, he wants to depose her position but can't go against the empress dowager's last death wish. He can only trap her in Jing Ren Palace and doesn't want to see her again.

When Hong Li becomes the next emperor, Huan visits Yi Xiu to tell her about Yong Zheng's decision not to add her history in the history books and will bury her with the other normal concubines after her death. Yi Xiu dies with her eyes open in shock as she can't believe this is happening to her.

Siu Fun needs not envy Tang Shui Mun for getting Yu Fei in 'War and beauty'. She has gotten the best role of her career as Yi Xiu in a huge China production. She has presented Yi Xiu's ambitious and vicious side well – it is definitely a milestone in her career. Unlike 'War and Beauty 2' which is a total opposite of this.

4. Jiang Xin as Hua Fei/Nian Shi Lan

She is stunningly beautiful with seductive eyes. Her skin is flawless and wants to stand out from the rest. She is Yi Xiu and Huan's enemy. Even though Yong Zheng pampers her, it is on Gen Yao's account. He gives her the fragrance「歡宜香」so she is childless. She is pregnant once but Duan Fei gives her the abortion medicine to cause her to have a miscarriage. She doesn't have the wits and beauty of Huan.

Thus, she can never be his capable assistant. She can only ask for his attention through plots. But she has no wits and the road is rocky. Her ways of killing the rest is nothing as compared to Yi Xiu. Yi Xiu knows how to make use of others to kill instead of dirtying her own hands. The part of using Yu Da Ying to poison Huan or framing Mei Zhuang is actually devised by Li Pin and Cao Gui Ren. Her style is ruthless but not really wiseto guarantee her a long, smooth future. Her causing of Huan's miscarriage makes her lose her title but she fights to win back. When Cao Gui Ren exposes her plots, she is demoted to Da Ying.

Her tragedy is caused by her infauration with Yong Zheng. She still wants him to change her mind although he wants her dead in the cold palace as she gets men to set fire to Sui Yu palace. Huan has to tell her the truth about her childless state. The fragrance is not a reward but a punishment. That breaks her heart and she knocks herself to death against the wall.

5. Lan Xi as Shen Mei Zhuang

She is like her name – gentle and well educated. She grows up with Huan and gets chosen to be in the inner palace with her. She is very loyal to friends. Her family trains her well to get selected right in the first round to get Yong Zheng's affections fast. She is an expert in zither playing and making chrysanthemum cakes so Yong Zheng names her palace after the flower.

Yet, she incurs the warth of many concubines. Her pride makes her forget to conceal her intelligence. When she gets into the palace, she helps Yi Xiu with her work. This is like setting a bomb to Hua Fei and Yi Xiu. Mei Zhuangis is initally waiting for Yong Zheng. She is too eager to get pregnant to get into Hua Fei's trap. She is tricked into believing that she is pregnant as Hua Fei bribes the imperial physician.

She is demoted to Da Ying. She is kind but is nearly killed a few times. Thus, she learns the cold truth and only wants basic survival. The empressdowager dotes on her and reinstate her back. She can only get close to Shi Chu. When seeing Shi Chu castrating himself, she has a big shock. She pays a high price to die due to difficult child labour after giving birth to their daughter, Princess Jing He – partly due to Ling Rong's framing. To die in his arms is a blissful thing to her and she entrusts her daughter to Huan.

6. Tao Xin Ran as An Ling Rong

Her father is only a small magistrate and to participate in the selection is the only way to change her fmaily's fate. Her credit is she has a wonderful singing voice. From here, she befriends Mei Zhuang and Huan. She doesn't feel close to them as she feels inferior. She doesn't trust others easily.

She is also jealous of Huan due to Yi Xiu's flaming. She later ruins their ties due to her greed. Ling Rong knows her status well. She isn't of top position as Yi Xiu, not as forceful as Hua Fei and isn't as observant as Huan. She is an expert in embroidery and singing. Yi Xiu later trains her in this to promote her.

She only pretends to be gentle but she also becomes evil – not entirely due to the queen. Seeing how she causes Yu Da Ying's death is only the tip of an iceberg. She hates Yong Zheng for causing her misery and Yi Xiu for making use of her. Yi Xiu keeps using her after discovering how she tries cursing Hua Fei with paper human figurines.

She is pregnant but Yi Xiu keeps drugging her so she has miscarriages. She and Yi Xiu try to frame Huan for this but is revealed and Huan tricks her to be passionate with Yong Zheng to cause her own miscarriage. She is discovered using a drug 迷情香 to seduce Yong Zheng so she is trapped in Yan Xi palace without servants to serve her. She later kills herself with sour almond – she can finally be in charge for once and hints to Huan the real truth of Chun Yuan's death to kill Yi Xiu for self-protection.

7. Lau Suet Wah as Empress dowager

She is the two queens' aunt. She is not easily scared by changing of events. She knows Yi Xiu's ruthless nature well but she bears with her acts to protect the glory of her clan. She has intimate relationship with Long Ke Duo. When she is seriously ill, she sets a will that Yi Xiu can never be deposed. She quarrels with Yong Zheng and dies as a result.

Unknown to many, Suet Wah was born in China. Although she spent a few years acting in Hong Kong and also many years acting in Taiwan, her roots stayed in China. That is why unlike other Hong Kong or Taiwan artists who seemed awkward for their debut drama, she was never ill at ease. Although now she is no longer the 'young dowager', she is excellent as the empress dowager. Her beauty, poise and grace is still second to none.
8. Ying Er (Liu Ying) as Xia Dong Chun
She comes from a rich family and bullies Ling Rong. As her act of framing Huan is discovered, Hua Fei gets her men to maim her legs and she is thrown into the cold palace.

9. Chen Si Si as Cao Gui Ren

She is smart and cunning. She is Princess Wen Yi's mother. She helps Hua Fei to deal with the other concubines initially. When Hua Fei falls out of favour and uses Wen Yi as a threat, she decides to betray her. She is afraid of offending Hua Fei and Huan. She is scared that Hua Fei will seek revenge on her for revealing her evil deeds so she keeps asking the empress dowager to kill Hua Fei. The empress dowager finds her too evil so she and Yong Zheng poisons her to death in her soups.
10. Tan Song Yun as Chun Gui Ren

She is selected into the palace with Huan. She is too young and is innocent. She is supposed to become a concubine after Dragon Boat Festival. Yet, she discovers Hua Fei accepting bribes so she is pushed into the pond and is drowned.

11. Zhao Qin as Fuca Gui Ren

Her family comes from the Machurian army. She is arrogant and gets along well with Qi Fei to be Huan's enemy. She brags about her pregnancy to often want Yong Zheng to keep her company and keeps belittling Ling Rong. Ling Rong uses fragrance to empower her and scares her with her cat to cause her miscarriage. She has a guilty conscience so she loses her mind after listening to Huan's scary stories.

12. Tang Yi Xin as Qi Pin

She also comes from a ruch family and looks down on Long Rong. With an influential father, she finds fault with Huan. She has thought of Yi Xiu to be her backer but the red bead bracelet that Yi Xiu gets her to wear kills her hopes of getting a child. It is too expensive and given by Yi Xiu so no one dares to tell her the truth.

She waits for 3 years for the last chance to get into the palace. Her father defeats Gen Yao and she gets into the palace. She later tries to please Huan to move to Cui Yu palace. She keeps bullying Xin Gui Ren. Although she is Yi Xiu's trusted with An Pin, both are rivals in secret. As Qi Pin is easily to control, Yi Xiu gives her more tasks. Her arrogance causes her to get demoted.

She points out that Huan and Bao Chu are an item – she claims that Huan's twins are his children and demands for a blood test. This is done in vain and she gets thrown into the cold palace instead. She takes up the responsibility to be banished and becomes a commoner. But she keeps shouting and scolding Zhen Huan so Bei Sheng hits her till death. Yi Xiu feels that she is useless and deserves this.

13. Wan Mei Xi as Xin Chang Zai

She is direct, mature and pretty. She is also a victim of miscarriage. She doesn't know how to fight favour for herself and she gets promoted to Gui Ren as she serves Yong Zheng for a long time. She gets bullied by others, especially Qi Pin. When Huan returns to the palace, she goesto her to deal with Qi Pin and also gets her father to keep Ling Rong's father's guilt evidence. When Qi Pin gets demoted, she gets promoted.

14. Zhang Ya Meng as Qi Fei

She gives birth to Yong Zheng's eldest son. She is silly to give poisonous cakes to Huan and Lan Yi for his sake. Her acts are too obvious so Yi Xiu seizes her son to be hers to force her to hang herself to death.

15. Li Yi Juan as Duan Fei

She is one of the most senior concubines besides Hua Fei. She causes Hua Fei to be is childless and Hua Fei does the same to her to give her a pot of red tea and she becomes barren. Hua Fei hates her deeply and harms her repeatedly till she becomes sickly. Mei Zhuang stays near her and she is alert to prevent her from being poisoned to death. Due to her seniority, she is promoted to Fei from Pin.
Huan visits her and Shi Chu nurses her back to health. She knows what happens and becomes the concubine after Hua Fei's death. She is righteous and adopts Princess Wen Yi after Cao Pin's death.

16. Li Jia Xuan as Li Pin

She is dependent on Hua Fei and helps in Yu Da Ying's case. Huan pretends that Yu's ghost is lingering with Xiao Yun Zi's help and Li becomes mad to stay in the cold palace.

17. Yang Zi Yan as Jing Fei

She is an introvert and is gentle. She tolerates to have first half of her life in peace (or rather she lacks the gift of the gab) and uses her wits to have the second half in stability(she becomes eloquent). She is kind and resourceful. Huan can make a comeback with the help from her, Duan Fei, Jing Xi and Shi Chu.

When Mei Zhuang is trapped in her residence, she saves her from being harmed. She is also childless and adopts Princess Long Yue. She likes her so much that she helps Yi Xiu to harm Huan once. Luckily, she realizes her mistake fast.

18. Re Yi Zha as Ye Lan Yi

She loves Yun Li and doesn't want to come into the palace but she has no choice. She doesn't like Yong Zheng so she doesn't hesitate drinking the drugged soup to become childless. She is cold to Yong Zheng but warm to Yun Li. She can collect his favourite flower petals in the heavy rain. Even though she feels that Huan lets Yun Li down, she still takes care of her as she is the woman he loves.

After knowing that Yun Li is killed by Yong Zheng, she gives him a taste of his medicine. Yun Li doesn't know her feelings till death and she doesn't mind sacrificing for him. She kills herself after seeking revenge.

19. Cui Man Li as Yu Ying Er

Yong Zheng has thought that she is Huan from the back view as she is equally good in singing. She is promoted with Yi Xiu's help but gets demoted due to her bullying of Huan. Hua Fei makes use of her to poison Huan. Yong Zheng sentences her to death but she is unwilling. Ling Rong cooks up an excuse to kill her before Yong Zheng returns. Thus, her neck is nearly broken into two by Ling Rong's order.

20. Mao Xiao Tong as Ying Da Ying

She is Yun Li's maid and is sent to the palace by Huan Bi to work for Yong Zheng. This is to prevent Yong Zheng from killing Yun Li and also transfers his attention from Huan to her. The third prince falls for her but his love is one-sided. He keeps writing love letters to her. Jing Fei discovers this and Yong Zheng sentences her to death to preserve the imperial glory.

21. He Ya Nan as Kang Chang Zai

A concubine that joins later who likes to create trouble.

22. Guo Xuan as Zhen Bin

A concubine that joins later who likes to create trouble.

23. Lan Ying Ying as Huan Bi

She is Yun Li's second wife and is Huan's biological younger half- sister although she is her maid. She accompanies Huan when she is married to Yong Zheng. Her looks resembles her and she is proud. This causes Ling Rong to be displeased with Huan too. Cao Gui Ren catches her buying paper money for her late mother so she has to reveal Huan's secrets to her to frame Huan.

She wants to get Yong Zheng's attention but he simply ignores her. She has poor dressing sense to get ridiculed instead. She later repents and follows Huan so that her late mother's name can be included in the ancestral book. Sheeven follows Huan to be a nun on Ling Yun mountain. Both love Yun Li at the same time so they are love rivals.

She accidentally knocks into Yun Li and causes Huan's purse to fall on the floor. To prevent Yong Zheng from suspecting as it has Huan's portrait on it, she claims to be hers so Yong Zhen sends her to be married to Yun Li. She often spars with Jing Xian. After Yun Li dies, she also knocks into his coffin to die too.

24. Zhan Jing Yi as Liu Zhu

She is Huan's maid to come into the palace together. Sheis alert and cheerful. When Huan is bounded in the palace, she tries to seek help but is killed by the guards outside Cui Yu palace.

25. Li Tian Zhu as Su Pei Sheng
He is Yong Zheng's eunuch and is Xiao Xia Zhi's teacher. He has a mild temperament and likes Jing Xi. He later marries Jing Xi and thus often helos Huan.

26. Liu Yi Tong as Song Zhi

She obeys Hua Fei and tries helping her to speak up for her clan when Gen Yao is in trouble. When Hua Fei is dead, she is demoted from Da Ying to a palace maid again.

27. Zhou Zi Han as Cai Yue

Zhuang's faithful maid who follows her when she gets married to Yong Zheng.

28. Sun Qian as Cui Jing Xi

She is Huan's maid in the palace. She has Chun Yuan's help in the past and thus looks after Huan well. She is faithful to Huan and can get along with Pei Sheng. She is the only person who stays with Huan throughout her lifetime. She gives Huan advice and Huan listens to her.

29. Yang Kai Chun as Jian Qiu

She is Yi Xiu's maid who is so faithful to her to do the evil deeds. She pities Yi Xiu over her parentage and knows that Yi Xiu is sore over her own miscarriage to want to harm others. When Yi Xiu loses her power, she tries poisoning Huan's and Hong Zhan's soups.Jing Xian drinks by mistake and dies. Even though she is badly beaten, she doesn't reveal a word.

30. Xu Lu as Zhen Yu Lao

She is Huan's youngest sister to be with her family when they go on exile. She is strong and is not pretentious. As she resembles Chun Yuan, Yong Zheng intends to get her as his concubine. To please her, he clears her family's name. However, she becomes Yun Xi's wife. She adopts Yun Li's son, Yuan Che after Yun Li's death.

31. Luo Kang as Xiao Yun Zi

He is the eunuch sent to Huan and he becomes her great helper. She allows him to take care of his sick elder brother. He is grateful and is loyal to her. When Huan is in the temple, he takes care of Mei Zhuang. Many years later, he is the head of the eunuchs.

32. Liu Yang as Jiang Fu Hai

He is Yi Xiu's eunuch and does all evil deeds. He is beaten with Jian Qiu to reveal Yi Xiu's crimes.

33. Li Dong Xue as Yun Li/Guo Jun Wang

He is Kang Xi's 17th son and is most pampered. He has failed to find a soulmate. Meeting Huan for the first time, he has his mind set to protect her. He is also the father of Hong Zhan, the twins Princess Li Xi and Prince Yuan Che. He is handsome to win hearts of many women and loves Huan deeply. When Huan is in exile in the temple and has a high fever, he tries hard to lower her temperature.

He finally moves her but he is forced to marry the two wives. The period at the temple is the most wonderful period for him. He has never expected to send her back to Yong Zheng.He can only play flute music out of boredom now. He knows what Huan has done and respects her choice. He is polite to Huan Bi as this is what she wants. When Yong Zheng discovers his feelings towards Huan, he wants to poison Huan but he dies on her behalf.

34. Zhang Xiao Long as Wen Shi Chu

He is an imperial physician after treating an epidemic and is Chong Ling Chi's master. He is in love with Huan and often helps her. He gets drunk one day to cause Mei Zhuang to be pregnant with their daughter. Qi Fei frames him to say that he has designs on Huan so he castrates himself.

35. Wang Wen Jie as Hong Li/Yong Zheng

He is the fourth prince. Yong Zheng rapes his ugly mother and palace maid, Jing Gui and he is born. Because of his lowly status, Yong Zheng dislikes him and he grows up in Yuan Ming Yuan. He is close to Huan and sheadopts him to return to the palace to be dependable on her. He is intelligent and works hard but he doesn't repay her kindness after he becomes the emperor. To make sure that Huan is his mother, Yong Zheng adds 10 years to her age as she is only 7 years older than Hong Li.

36. Wu Li Peng as Hong Shi

He is the third prince and is Qi Fei's son to be brought up by Yi Xiu. He loves Ying Gui Ren. He misbelieves Hong Li to speak up for their uncles who offend Yong Zheng. Yong Zheng disowns him and he is taken care of Heng Qing Wang.

37. Liu Yan as Su Tai Fei

She is Yun Li's mother and doesn't fight with the others. She is kind and practices the way at a Taoist temple.

38. Yang Qi as Meng Jing Xian
She is Yun Li's wife and Yuan Che's biological mother. She loves Yun Li but she has a weak physique. She accidentally drinks Jian Qiu's poisonous soup and dies after giving birth to him.

39. Shen Bao Ping as Zhen Yuan Dao

He is the father of the three sisters. He is successful in getting rid of Gen Yao. He is framed by corrupted officals to go on exile. Luckily, Huan gets him back to get treated for his illness and lives to a bright old age.

40. Li Dan as Yun Xing Meng

She is Huan's mother and is gentle. She doesn't complain when she goes on exile.

41. Sun Ning as Nian Geng Yao
He is Hua Fei's elder brother who is boorish. He is found of rebelling against Yong Zheng with Dun Qing Wang so he is removed from office and is forced to kill himself.

42. Tian Xi Ping as Yun Er/Dun Qing Wang
He is rough and doesn't have a brain. When his rebel plan is uncovered, he is under house arrest.

43. Tian Pu Jun as Dun Qing Wang Fu Ji She is honest and kind. She visits Huan when she falls out of favour with Yong Zheng. Thus, Huan speaks up for him to give titles to their children. Her daughter can be adopted by Yiu Xiu to repay his kindness.

44. Kang Fu Zhen as Yun Xi (Shen Jun Wang)
He is in love with Yu Yao and gets to marry her. Even his mother gets promoted to imperial empress concubine due to this.

45. Zhang Yan as Xian Fei

She is Yi Xiu's niece and wishes to marry the third prince but he doesn' t like her. She has sneered at Yi Xiu as the second wife so Yi Xiu gets her to become Hong Li's second wife as revenge. She is proud but her looks are below average.

Interesting facts
“惊鸿舞”was the most anticipated scene of the whole drama. It is said to be Queen Chun Yuan's dance that moves heaven and earth. Any other normal person dancing it cannot match up to the standard. If do well, that is only satisfactory. If don't do well, this is showing disrespect to the late empress. Concubine Cao deliberately picks on Huan to do the dance on her daughter's month old celebration. Huan has to do it with Ling Rong's singing in front of the royal family.

A professional dancer designed the segment. Li was very intelligent as she had dancing background to be able to master it within 15 minutes.On the day of filming, she danced with the touching music. The one minute scene became a whole 3 minute performance when Li danced with her feel. When the music ended, all gave thundering applause.

I would call it 惊艳舞. I have never seen such a captivating dance that combines beauty and gracefulness into one. I thought Zhang Zi Yi was the only one who had managed to create an impression in 'House of flying daggers'. Now there is another addition - Li has certainly blended into the role. Not just Yong Zheng is attracted, many others too.

Siu Fun was pregnant with her first daughter while shooting the drama. As the queen, she had to wear the high 7-8cm shoes when shooting it. Many praised her for being successful as the scheming and powerful Yi Xiu. She did not feel that this affected her as she was happy daily.

The whole crew treated her well and the Director Zheng Xiao Long changed many scenes of her to sit. Li even joked that she was a national treasure. They kept reminding her to keep herself warm in winter. Like Siu Fun, Li's son was also born in the same year.

Director Zheng explained why he chose the plain-looking Chen to be Yong Zheng. Chen's mature image suited Yong Zheng's age. He was not shooting an idol drama – so he wanted to break everyone's imagination of a handsome emperor by Wu Qi Long or He Sheng Ming. Their versions were empty talks – an emperor can never be devoted only to a woman. He wanted to present the truth to the world.

Chen was satisfied with his performance – he joked that all can look at Yong Zheng's portrait to decide if he is suitable. He acted according to history. The novel has Yong Zheng as 45 years old but he was 42. The history had Yong Zheng devoted to politics and the throne saga left him stern.how can he be laughing all the time? He acted according to Director Zheng's instructions and did not add his own gestures.

It was a gem to many. Li revealed that she had never accepted a historical role as she had not seen a sutiable script. Director Zheng had a chat with her and was excited as he had not shot a historical drama before too. It was a first for them but they never expected it to become a blockbuster.Li needed at least 30 minutes to apply make-up.

Huan's story started from 17 years old so her images changes plentifully. She kept changing clothes in a day. The clothes unit was vey careful and Li helped them to remember what to get. Li kept photos in her handphone to show them. Many chose Li to be the top favourite concubine besides Mei Zhuang as Mei Zhuang also contains all the virtues.

There were many actresses in this drama – many fought in the drama but were as close as sisters after filming. Li's appetite was poor when her rice box was cold. Qian's helper would heat her food for her. With one glance, each of them knew how to continue and there were few n.g.s

Many also praised Dong Xue's performance as the devoted lover. Director Zheng even joked that he won hearts of milions as his devotion to only one woman was rare in that era. True indeed, many grumbled over the sad ending but he felt that this arrangement was more touching. His favourite sport was soccer and some were amused when he played in the snow during breaks. He just could not sit still at all.

Xiao Long's Shi Chu also won hearts of millions to be named as the most handsome imperial physician in history. Many praised him for acting naturally – the feelings were done suitably. He admitted that he was also a gentleman but not entirely as Shi Chu. So he had to do a lot of homework. Shi Chu is a sentimental and reserved person so he ould only use his eyes to show his secret love for Huan.

Many pinned for his one-sided love. Even though Shi Chu is the next person who can get in touch with so many women besides the emperor, he has to be formal in greetings and exchanges. To him, Shi Chu keeps concealing his love like a guardian and this role moved him too.

All did not know his other identity – he is 中央戏剧学院 – China acting academy's associate professor. He is also in charge of the masters programme in teaching them on traditional court affair greetings. He guided the others along in their greetings too in this drama. After acting this drama, his classes are packed but he still makes time to shoot some dramas when free.

Why is this drama popular? The director, Xiao Long, Dong Xue, Xin, Siu Fun, Chen and Li won numerous awards due to it. The theme song and sub theme song also won the best themesong song wards. It tells us the survival skills in the working world which are realistic. All explanations are by the director himself which all will find useful.

No. 1 – don't show off. Huan doesn't know the rules and thus doesn't get Yong Zheng's trust. She is nearly killed in the struggle between Yi Xiu and Hua Fei. But she learns fast to conceal her wits in studies and talents in dancing. Even though when bullied, learn to endure.

No. 2 – work well with the superior. Huan knows Yong Zhengwell. She can't be involved in politics but she uses historical quotes to get his trust. She calls Yong Zheng as Si Lang to bridge their gap. She also treats her maids well so that they can help her out. One can't survive not with ability and wits but not knowing what the superior wants. Train good judgment and not to oppose against the superior. No one will like someone who keeps opposing.

No 3 – leave a step back for everyone. Huan treats all well and is sociable. When Yong Zheng punishes her, she quickly goes to the temple to get away from the eyes of her enemies. She makes use of her relations to let Yong Zheng know of her well-being to melt down and return to the palace in the limelight. One will make mistakes when it becomes too smoothsailing. The wrong method is to 一哭二闹三上吊 – to threaten the superior. That might create an opposite response instead.

This drama was shown in Japan. Almost one half of the Japanese population watched this drama which broke their own record. The Japanese lamented that they did not shoot such a good drama for long. The US would be showing it too. Li was thrilled to imagine all concubines speaking or scolding in English.

Most favourite character

It is a tie between Huan, Shi Chu and Yun Li. I can't make up my mind – please don't blame me. Huan might have flaws but she has to protect her loved ones. The men are truthful to love and take great pains to protect them too. Who isn't moved by them?

Most hated character

She is Yi Xiu – her appearance is only pretence. She looks kind but she is a despicable person who will do everything to ensure that her position is safe. All is well till the arrival of Huan. She is plain unlucky to meet her match or her doom.

Song

The opening theme song: Hong Yan Jie (红颜劫) is by Yao Bei Na. It is a very sad song and she sings mournfully. The ending theme song: Feng Huang Yu Fei (凤凰于飞) is by Liu Huan. It is also a sad song. No one can doubt his singing standard too as a powerful singer.

Conclusion
It is definitely a not-to-be missed drama of all times. The acting is splendid. Completely flawless! All play their parts to perfection. It was so different from the usual stage-like acting that we were often offered. Mediacorp must have jumped after Li returned to China after participating in Star Search. They had missed a pearl to slip out of their hands. She merges beauty and acting together.

This drama shows that having a pretty face isn't good enough. Having a pretty face and versatile acting will make a big production memorable. This drama gives enough space for all the actresses to present their abilities to ther fullest. They are not just beautiful – they are also excellent.

Unlike other nonsencial or half-baked so-called historical dramas, this drama depicts a true and real picture of the real inner palace. I am totally captivated by the turning of events. The drama was shown over local TV at an unthinkable time slot of 11pm. Still, even my younger brother who arrived home late daily at almost 11pm never failed to watch every episode of it. The storyline was compelling and there is never a boring moment.

The drama keeps saying that the importance is not the truth but how the emperor thinks. The most important is also not who is right but who he believes. Thus, all struggles are to let the emperor see for himself to gain his trust. A real heart can't help to avoid tragedies from happening – especially death. Thus, it is concluded that life is deception.

He decides the glory and shame for all. He is partial in love and thus the inner palace needs to save their own skin. Hua Fei is proud and evil to all but she is an easy guess as she is impertous. Yi Xiu is experienced and doesn't give others a chance for a comeback. Ling Rong is gentle but her words are killer daggers although without her own base. Huan is naïve to want to reveal the truth to Yong Zheng in the beginning. When she realizes that this doesn't work, she joins the crowd.

We see another cycle of the concubines – be popular, fall all of favour and regaining popularity. This is not fighting for love alone. The emperor wants to tame them like horses while their families want them to be phoenixs to gain honour for them. Their servants want them to be fairies so that they can shine too. Thus, they also give the struggles one extra push to let all get involved in it.

'War of beauty' is only storm in a tea-cup in comparison. I am baffled that it is Director Zhang's first try – this doesn't look like one to me. The sets and costumes are grand. Even the servants also talk and walk in grace. Some have the gift of the gab and also sensitive to their masters/mistresses needs.

My only complaint is the story gets a bit messy when the development comes to the central. This is unavoidable when a drama has too many episodes. There are too many abortion and miscarriage scenes that they seem to be overused. Otherwise, it is perfect. I urge all to watch this drama. It will be a big pity if you miss it.

Sukting's ratings :
On acting : ***** (Scale of 5)
On story : ****1/2 (Scale of 5)
On song : **** (Scale of 5)


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