Friday, August 24, 2018

Story of Yanxi Palace vs Ruyi's Royal Love In The Palace

What is probably trending over half the globe. I think about 30%-40% of the world's population is currently totally enamored by two Chinese palace intrigue dramas as Ruyi's Royal Love In The Palace (airing on online platform Tencent Video) and The Story of Yanxi Palace (which has a cumulative 11.5 billion views since its release last month).  Not only in China were these megahits but across the overseas Chinese diaspora as well. Be it Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Australia, Canada, USA, etc... If you are not watching, ask yourself why. No right or wrong reasons here.
Ruyi boasts a star-studded cast including Zhou Xun, Wallace Huo and Joan Chen. It is based on a novel by Liu Lianzi and is a sequel to 2011's hit drama Empresses In The Palace, also based on the novel by Liu.
It has drawn all the attention, and surprisingly both are based on the era of Emperor Qianlong Wang during the Qing dynasty.
However, these are not pure historical pieces. The writers have taken a lot of liberty in the characters and plots. Wei Yingluo, the protagonist in Yanxi, who is also one of the main characters in Ruyi, but her name is changed to Wei Yanwan and she is a villain in Ruyi.
Comparisons between the two productions were unavoidable. So far, viewers have been saying that Ruyi lacked the aesthetics of Yanxi.
Politics Behind Period Dramas
Ruyi was shot in 2016 and was originally slated for a late 2017 release. With the Chinese government’s passing of the "limit historical drama order" in 2017, which places a strict quota on broadcasting historical period dramas on national television, the airing for Ruyi was put in limbo. 
According to the order, provincial satellite stations like Dragon Television and Jiangsu Television are only allowed to dedicate 15 percent of its airtime to historical period dramas—in other words, satellite stations could not air more than 110 episodes of historical period dramas per year.
With the restart of a new cycle, Dragon TV and Jiangsu TV finally have room to air Ruyi on their stations.
Why is Beijing so careful with period dramas? I guess they do not want the era of dynasties to be painted too romantically. Are they fearful that the public would then ask for a return to monarchies? So silly.
The fact that most period pieces take huge liberties with real events will make it very difficult for current and future generations of Chinese to separate truth from fiction anyway.
Which Is Better
During its first week of release on online video platform iQiyi, “Story of Yanxi Palace” received over 500 million hits at home and abroad. The new drama also smashed the record of iQiyi’s Taiwanese site by gaining over 1 million hits within a week.
The big success of “Story of Yanxi Palace” is partially attributable to the delay of the highly-anticipated costume dramas “Ruyi’s Royal Love in the Palace” and “Legend of Ba Qing,” which have repeatedly failed to pass Chinese official censorship.
Without divulging plots and the intricacies... I have to vote for Story of Yanxi. Thanks largely to the superb acting by the top 5 ladies. Wu Jinyan, in particular, carried the series with aplomb. You gravitate towards her. Wu Jinyan has the acting chops similar to, in my view, the current best Chinese actress Zhou Dongyu.

Both are highly watchable, esp Story of Yanxi. You will learn a lot about sabotage, mercy, resourcefulness, evils that can prevail from a person, pragmatism, deceit, alliances that matter, etc... much like your real working life. Love was never a strong endgame or consideration - strategic positioning for power and influence were.

The key attractions for most viewers, I think, are: people who are somehow fated to be in a certain environment will fight against fate, and the varying levels of hate and evil colored by shades of grey as nothing is ever black or white.
Both are rightfully splendid productions about strong women. Emperor and eunuchs are merely pawns to be maneuvered. In an era (much like now even) where men reign supreme and womenfolk were of much lower status, it is gratifying to see them empowering themselves somewhat. Never underestimate what a woman can do.

I guess that is why the creator of chess game only allowed the King to move one space while the Queen is the most powerful piece.

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