Shipping on the minority boat in Imperial Doctress

When I first reported about the Imperial Doctress nearly two years ago, I was adamantly against Liu Shi Shi's character falling in love with the second male lead, Huang Xuan's Zhu Qiyu. I was strongly shipping Wallace Huo's character, Zhu Qizhen, with Liu Shi Shi's Tan Yunxian (pseudonym Hang Yunxian). I even decided to abandon following the news about Imperial Doctress when I found out the story may not go in the direction I wanted. After watching Zhu Qiyu's first appearance and the available promotional materials, I'm completely sold on Huang Xuan's performance as Zhu Qiyu, Zhu Qizhen's younger brother and later the seventh emperor of the Ming Dynasty. He prevented the Ming Dynasty from suffering a similar fate as the Song Dynasty, which got split into the Northern Song and Southern Song when the Jurchens invaded northern China.

My interest in Zhu Qiyu escalated when I found out his character will significantly darken as the series progresses and acts as a deterrent to Tan Yunxian's professional aspiration in medicine. Surprisingly, I look forward to watching how Zhu Qiyu and Tan Yunxian's turbulent marriage will unfold. I get a bad feeling I'm on the wrong shipping boat because I'm definitely a minority in shipping for Tan Yunxian and Zhu Qiyu. And Zhu Qiyu and Tan Yuanxian's relationship is destined to go downhill. I've also been reading rumored leaks that Tan Yunxian's true love is Wallace Huo's Zhu Qizhen and she will eventually fall out of love with Zhu Qiyu. The scriptwriter hinted that Tan Yunxian and Zhu Qizhen shippers will see sunlight later. So Wallace Huo may actually get the girl's heart at the end! If the scriptwriter gave me this bit of information two years ago, I would probably be happy. Unfortunately, I have a major change of heart and don't care for Wallace Huo's character anymore.

To create the character of Tan Yunxian and generate some dramatic effects, the scriptwriter actually based this single character on three different women who existed in the Ming Dynasty: Tan Yunxian, Empress Hang, and Imperial Consort Tang. Tan Yunxian was a famous female doctor who lived during Zhu Qizhen's son's reign. She was only three years old when Zhu Qizhen died and wasn't even born when Zhu Qiyu was alive. Empress Hang was Zhu Qiyu's second empress who gave birth to his only son. Imperial Consort Tang was also another woman in Zhu Qiyu's harem who became a burial sacrifice when Zhu Qiyu died at the age of 30. Based on this fact and materials released so far, Tan Yunxian will become Zhuyu's concubine and give birth to his only son. Whether this child will survive or not remains a mystery. He will also depose his first wife, Empress Wang, to elevate Yunxian's position.
I heard Yunxian may be reluctant to marry Zhu Qiyu because she probably senses his change. After Zhu Qiyu becomes emperor, he will transform from a kindhearted gentle prince into a power-hungry ruthless man. He constantly gets jealous and resents Yunxian for spending three years in Mongolia with his brother and siding with his brother against him. Probably due to some misunderstanding, he becomes overly suspicious of any interaction between Yunxian and Zhu Qizhen. I heard that the role of Zhu Qiyu was offered to many actors, including Li Yifeng, but the actors refused to accept the role because his character becomes too unlikable. His dark transformation in the later episodes most likely will earn him many boos.

Perhaps my good feelings for the real Zhu Qiyu in history translated into more tolerance for the drama character who will turn evil. Compared to his older brother, Zhu Qizhen, a lousy emperor who killed capable officials, Zhu Qiyu was a competent ruler who held the county together against the Mongol invasion and was able to use the right people to do the job. I read that because of Zhu Qizhen's foolishness, he indirectly destroyed 500,000 Ming soldiers.

Though Zhu Qiyu was considered a capable emperor, he was not known to be very nice. He put his older brother under house arrest for eight years. I just hope the TV series won't make him too evil and becomes despicable to a level where any form of personal redemption and forgiveness will be impossible. I don't want to see Zhu Qiyu's selfish ruthlessness foils for his brother Zhu Qizhen's quiet self-sacrifice and suffering.

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