Ruyi’s Royal Love in the Palace (如懿传) is a 2018 Chinese television series based on novel Hou Gong Ru Yi Zhuan by Liu Lianzi. Starring Zhou Xun and Wallace Huo, the series chronicles the marriage of Qianlong Emperor and Hoifa-Nara, the Step Empress. It is the sequel to the critically acclaimed drama Empresses in the Palace.

Synopsis

Ulanara Ruyi is the niece of the Empress and the childhood lover of Hongli, the fourth prince. She was initially chosen to be the third prince Hongshi’s difujin (official wife), but fell out of the selection. Hongli’s mother Niohuru Zhenhuan reveals to the Emperor that the Empress had killed the former Empress. Ruyi’s aunt is locked away and she is poisoned by Zhenhuan. Before she dies, she tells Ruyi to become Hongli’s Empress. With the Ulanara clan in disgrace after Empress Yixiu falls out of favour, Ruyi (Zhou Xun) learns the politics of the harem. She faces the schemes of Fuca Langhua the Empress, and her underling Gao Xiyue.

Ruyi is eventually forced to reside in the Cold Palace and separated from the Emperor. There, she meets Ling Yunche, an imperial guard who helped her survive. She also finds out the reason why she hasn’t had a child is because of a bracelet that Fuca Langhua gave her. In order to help Ruyi, her close friend Keliyete Hailan decides to win Qianlong’s favor and Ruyi is saved from the Cold Palace. After Gao Xiyue is exposed, she lost the favor of the Emperor. Ruyi approaches Gao Xiyue and tells her that the reason why she wasn’t able to have a child is because of the bracelet that Fuca Langhua gave her. Gao Xiyue is saddened and eventually dies in the snow, after exposing Langhua’s evil deeds to Qianlong. Xiyue’s servant causes Fuca Langhua’s son to die to comfort her owner. Fuca Langhua’s daughter Jingse is also married to a Mongol Prince after Empress Dowager Zhenhuan refused to send her daughter for heqin. After Fuca Langhua almost drowned, she succumbed to illness out of grief.

Yet, Gao Xiyue and Fuca Langhua’s downfall is actually the result of the schemes of Jin Yuyan, a Korean woman who loves the King of Joseon. After Jin Yuyan’s plans are revealed, she dies heartbroken when the King of Joseon refused to see her one last time. Another consort, Su Luyun also lost Qianlong’s favour after she wanted her son to become the next Emperor. Consort Shu Yehenara Yihuan loves the Emperor, but willingly set herself on fire after realizing the Emperor never wanted her to have his children. Even after surviving multiple conspiracies at the hands of scheming concubines and successfully proving her innocence, Ruyi’s relationship with Qianlong (Wallace Huo) eventually becomes irreparable. She eventually becomes disillusioned with her husband and the harsh reality of life in the Palace.

With the love and trust between them fading, Ruyi is put aside by Qianlong in favour of Wei Yanwan, who seeks to one day displace Ruyi as Empress. Wei Yanwan is eventually promoted to the rank of Imperial Noble Consort (one rank before Empress), but her ruthless and biased actions in managing the Emperor’s harem create enemies amongst notable concubines such as Hailan, Balin Meiruo, and Han Xiangjian, who work to take her down. Ling Yunche, who was Yanwan’s previous lover, tells Hailan about her endeavors and sacrifices himself to save Ruyi. Eventually Wei Yanwan’s numerous evil deeds are exposed, and Qianlong delivers a stoic apology to Ruyi, knowing their relationship cannot be repaired. Ruyi eventually dies of Tuberculosis, saddening the Emperor heavily and hauntingly. Wei Yanwan is given a slow-acting and extremely painful poison, for which she must ingest the antidote on a regular basis to prolong her suffering. The Emperor and Empress Dowager, knowing that if Wei Yanwan lives until her son becomes emperor she will live a life of luxury, permit her the release of death.

The series ends as Emperor Emeritus Qianlong cuts his hair and intertwines it with the lock of hair that Ruyi cut decades earlier when she declared she no longer wanted to be his Empress. Qianlong dies with the two locks of hair in his hand as Ruyi’s favorite plant blooms for the first time in decades.

Reception

he series received mixed responses from viewers.

Many feel underwhelmed by the unaggressive heroine, who was not able to face off the villain consorts even in the second half of the drama, thus making her character design flawed and unconvincing. The drama was also criticized for its anti-climax story and depressive tone. Critics felt that it was ironic and unbelievable for the protagonist to pursue monogamy in a highly feudalistic context. The slow pacing in the first half of the drama was pointed out, with critics believing that the screenwriters neglecting a compact story-telling to flesh out the characters.

The series has also received criticism over the age of the leading performers, with viewers saying they made unconvincing teenagers, and criticized the series’ producers for not using younger actors to portray the lovestruck teens. Viewers were also divided over the lack of dubbing for Zhou Xun’s 15-year-old character, as they felt that her voice was “too raspy” and “mature” for a teenager.

However there were also praises for the drama. Zhang Hanyue, a writer and critic, said “The show becomes more and more heart-tugging as the story goes deep”. Many viewers agree that Ruyi bears many characteristics of a modern female. Vogue magazine commented that the drama actually recorded “the failure of a high-end girl” because what Ruyi had been pursuing was spiritual connections with her spouse; and such a pursuit represents the taste and ideal of the modern middle class. Critics agree that the drama introduces a new light to and narrative of palace dramas, deviating from the existing patterns of treacherous harem games. The drama won acclaim for its exquisite props, lavish sets and stellar cast.

Edited by staff

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