The Story of Yanxi Palace (延禧攻略）
The drama follows Wei Ying Luo’s journey in the imperial palace during reign of Qian Long Emperor in the Qing dynasty (18th century China). Initially entering the palace to investigate her sister’s death, she soon finds herself entangled in the rivalries of the palace. The drama stars Wu Jin Yan as Wei Ying Luo, Nie Yuan as Emperor Qian Long, Qin Lan as the Empress Fuca, Xu Kai as the handsome Fuca Fuheng, Charmaine Sheh as Consort Xian.
Premiering in 2018, this drama was the most popular drama that year both in China and overseas. It propelled the careers of Wu Jin Yan and Xu Kai while also aiding the rest of the cast into a renaissance in their careers.
This podcast is in English with proper nouns and certain Chinese phrases spoken in Mandarin Chinese
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Wei Yingluo 魏璎珞/令妃
The drama follows Zhen Huan as she enters the palace as a concubine and experiences successes and failures to ultimately become the most powerful woman in the empire.
Qianlong Emperor 乾隆皇帝
The 5th Emperor of the Qing Dynasty who just ascended the throne after a bloody fight for it. He is the cause for all heartbreak in the drama
The Empress 皇后
On the surface a serene and graceful Empress, but underneath rules the harem with an iron fist.
Consort Xian 娴妃
A favored concubine in the palace, she is wealthy, arrogant but uneducated. She loves the Emperor deeply only to realize that her connection to the Nian family would be her undoing.
Consort Gao 高贵妃
Zhen Huan’s best friend since childhood, Shen Mei Zhuang enjoyed early success in the palace but was a victim of a scheme that caused her to lose all interest in palace life.
Fuca Fuheng 富察傅恒
Entering the palace with Zhen Huan and Shen Mei Zhuang, her sensitive nature and low birth status pushed her against her friends and into the arms of the evil Empress.
Drama Setting – Intro History and Cultural Details
The drama takes place during the Qing Dynasty or at the time called 大清 . The Qing dynasty was founded by the Manchu Aisin Gioro (or 爱新觉罗 in Mandarin) clan in 1632 and ruled China from 1644 to 1912. It is the last imperial dynasty to rule China. Of note, the Manchu Aisin Gioro clan is not Han Chinese. The Manchu were from Northern China and were militaristic, well versed on horseback and had close ties to the Mongolians. In present day, Manchu is the second largest minority group in China and according to the 2010 Census from Baidu, there are over 10 million Manchu living in China. They have their own written and spoken language and many still live in dong bei province in China.
The Imperial Harem
The main setting of this drama is the emperor’s harem, or 后宫. Though it means “harem” in English, the direct translation of the words is “palace in the back”. This contrasts with qian chao 前朝 which is the Emperor’s court in which he conducts his ruling affairs, but the direct translation to those 2 words are “front court”. So you see, the emperor must manage two aspects of his life. The court, for ruling, and the harem, for continuing his progeny. There is a clear delineation of his roles and, of course, the role of women.
Titles in the Palace
During the Qing dynasty, you have one empress or 皇后, that rules the harem on behalf of the emperor. She is what is considered the “main” wife. Every other woman is, or supposed to be, subservient to her and enjoys special priviedges. There is normally a 皇贵妃, the Imperial Noble Consort followed by the rank of 贵妃, the Noble Consort. Then four women are generally appointed 妃子, Consort. The next tier is 嫔, Imperial Concubine. Of the above ranks, according to the drama, you are able to have your own, or at least control your own palace quarters.