✿ Chinese Drama ✿ Inner Palace: Zhen Huan Biography/Hou Gong: Zhen Huan Zhuan

 Title: Hou Gong: Zhen Huan Zhuan/ 后宫·甄嬛传/Inner Palace: Zhen Huan Biography/ Empresses in the Palace/ Legend of Concubine Zhen Huan
# Episode: 76
Genre: Women Court Politics, Romance, Personal Struggle, Qing Dynasty, Feminism
Director: Zheng Xiaolong
Writer(s): Liu Lianzi and Wang Xiaoping
Release date: November 21, 2011
Cast: (Betty) Sun Li as Zhen Huan, Ada Choi as the Empress, Chen Jianbin as the Emperor (Yongzheng), Li Dongxue as Prince Guo (17th Prince/Yinli)
Original novel written by Liu Lianzi

Discussion Forum
The focus of this story lies in the realistic depiction of the numerous faceless women lost in China's imperial history and their life confined in the inner palace. Court politics in drama is unfolded through feminine lens and also through the unique eyes of over a 100 different characters. 

Based on a popular internet novel by the same name, the story traces the trials and tribulations of the beautiful Zhen Huan, who inadvertently becomes a royal consort of the Emperor. Fate has sent her from the peaceful courtyard of her father's estate to the caged opulence of the Forbidden Palace, then to the darkly austere nunnery, and back to the splendor of the palace again. She transforms from an naive young girl oblivious of the harsh reality into a scheming court lady, and finally ascends to the most coveted position of the inner palace, Empress Dowager. At first, Zhen Huan devotes entirely on her husband, the Emperor. But when she discovers his true colors, her love for him dies with her innocence. Through the selfless love and sacrifice of Prince Guo, Zhen Huan slowly manages to recover from her emotional and physical turmoils. Their blissful happiness outside the palace ends abruptly and Zhen Huan is forced to return to the palace. She gives birth to Prince Guo's twins, a son and daughter, but the Emperor begins to question the fraternity of her twin children...

"Sun Li plays a scheming court concubine"  (translation by xiaolong @ spcnet)
The heroine, Zhen Huan (Sun Li), joined the palace harem with her sister. She was selected to be Emperor Yongzheng's (Chen Jian Bin) concubine. When Zhen Huan first enters the palace, she is innocent and gullible, but gradually learnd the hard way to fend for herself when she inadvertently becomes caught up in the schemes between the Empress (Ada Choi) and Concubine Hua (Jiang Xin). Through cunning and deceit, Zhen Huan finally succeeds in becoming Empress. However, she arouses Emperor Yongzheng's suspicion about her loyalty and is forced to poison her true love, 17th Prince. Finally, when Emperor Yongzheng dies and Hong Li ascends the throne, Concubine Zhen Huan becomes Empress Dowager. Though her future seems bright, she lives the rest of her life in sadness and guilt. 

Since the the original novel is set in a fictitious time period in imperial China, the screenwriters decided to give it a more "historical" backdrop and chose the reign of Emperor Yongzheng in Qing Dynasty as the drama's time frame. To accommodate the vast number of characters and their personalities from the original novel, they pretty much butchered/tweaked a historical facts about my favorite Qing emperor. I'm just going to pretend the Yongzheng Emperor in this series has absolutely no relation to the historical Yongzheng I know. So, take the "history" of this drama with a grain of salt and just enjoy the beautiful costumes/props. I have to say the costumes and head pieces are the most gorgeous Qing costumes I've ever seen.
Actually, I'm rather disappointed by the casting decision of the Emperor. The veteran actor, Chen Jianbin, has good acting chops, but lacks the good looks . I know I sound shallow, but can't help myself and be superficial regarding this drama since there are just so many beautiful women in this series. He just seems so incompatible compared to the rest of the cast. However, I am quite happy with Li Dongxue, who's playing  Zhen Huan's ultimate love interest, Prince Guo. I find him very handsome in Qing costumes and his looks befit the overall glittering decadent feel of the story. I've never seen him act onscreen before, so I'm hoping for a convincing portrayal. Lastly,  I heard Yu Zheng plagiarizes from this drama when he wrote Gong 2. There are SO MANY striking similarities between Gong 2 and this drama.

I took a peak at a few episodes in low quality resolution. The fuzzy and pixelated picture quality does no justice to the beautiful costumes/head pieces, completely downgrading the entire feel of the series.  Compared to the other Qing Dynasty series I've watched recently (i.e. Gong and Bu Bu Jing Xin), this storyline is SERIOUS and has a heavy historical feel. I love the opening theme song, but somehow I feel like the sound editor did a terrible job putting together the background music. Cuz there isn't enough! The boring silence does not match the mood of the scene! It's such a big no-no for a grand production. Soundtrack plays an enormous role in immersing viewers into the story.

Opening Theme Song:

Ending Theme Song:

Watch it on YouTube!
Episode 1-40
Episode 41-76

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