Battle of the palace series

Chinese actress Zhou Xun plays second Empress Consort Ulanara in Ruyi's Royal Love In The Palace.
Chinese actress Zhou Xun plays second Empress Consort Ulanara in Ruyi's Royal Love In The Palace.

HONG KONG • A battle royal appears to be brewing between two Chinese palace intrigue dramas as Ruyi's Royal Love In The Palace began airing on online platform Tencent Video yesterday.

The screening of Ruyi, which has been delayed for more than half a year, will clash with another palace drama, Story Of Yanxi Palace, which has garnered a cumulative 5.6 billion views since its release last month and is reaching the climax of the show.

Ruyi's viewership may not beat that of Yanxi in the first week as it is just starting out, but it 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.

As such, Ruyi's viewership is likely to be boosted by fans of Empresses In The Palace, Hong Kong's Apple Daily reported.

There are similarities between Ruyi and Yanxi, with both shows featuring infighting in the Chinese imperial harem of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing dynasty.

Ruyi's story is told from the angle of Ulanara, Qianlong's second Empress Consort, who faced several crises as she was ostracised in the harem. Ulanara is played by Chinese actress Zhou.

Several characters will also appear in both dramas, but they have different characteristics, as if they are existing in two parallel universes, according to Apple Daily.

One example is 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.

Ruyi will be Zhou's first television series since 2014, when she acted in Red Sorghum, a Chinese TV series based on Nobel laureate Mo Yan's 1986 novel of the same name. The novel was also made into a film in 1988 by Chinese director Zhang Yimou and it starred Gong Li and Jiang Wen.

Zhou has acted mostly in movies since 2003, such as Perhaps Love (2005), The Message (2009) and Our Time Will Come (2017) .

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 21, 2018, with the headline 'Battle of the palace series'. Print Edition | Subscribe