Empress Of China to be aired here, but Fan Bingbing's cleavage will be covered up digitally

The Empress Of China, the Tang dynasty drama that drew flak in China for baring the cleavages of female characters in the palace, will premiere on Sunday (April 26) in Singapore.

But pieces of fabric will be digitally added to cover up the women's bared flesh in the version airing here, just as the sensuous outfits disappeared from the screens in China when it premiered there in December last year.

The drama was pulled off China airwaves due to "technical reasons". It returned a week later with close-up shots of the actresses, sans the display of bosoms. China’s TV regulator later explained that the re-edit was needed because of “some unhealthy images for minors”, among other problems.

Leading lady and producer Fan Bingbing is not sweating the small stuff. "The situation may not be ideal, and there's certainly disappointment. But the ratings in China have been great," says 33-year-old Fan, who takes on the role of China's only empress.

"I have to respect Mainland China censorship standards. Every country has its own censorship rules." She was speaking at a regional press conference in Hong Kong on Monday, along with her Hong Kong co-stars Kathy Chow and Aarif Rahman.

While Empress Of China viewership has scored more than 10 billion views on online platforms in China, Chinese netizens were outraged at the censorship, and irate that they would not be able to feast their eyes on the intricate period costumes with low necklines, a style that is said to be reflective of Tang-era fashion.

Singapore and Hong Kong audiences will get a full view of the outfits, albeit with extra digital fabric. So far, only Taiwan has aired the series in its original form. StarHub is airing the Hong Kong version here because the show is airing on Hong Kong channel TVB First (StarHub TV Channel 860).

Mr Felix To, assistant to TVB's group CEO, explains: "To abide by censorship regulation in China, TVB will be airing the digitally altered version."

The advanced technology available to edit the scenes is a better alternative to having the cropped scenes, says Fan, who had starred as a maid in the popular television series 1990s series My Fair Princess starring Vicki Zhao Wei in the titular role.

The porcelain-skinned beauty is rumoured to be dating her Empress Of China co-star Chinese actor Li Chen. While questions on love life were out of bounds at the press conference, Fan spoke cooly about rumours of on-screen lovers getting together. She says: "Audiences are really into the drama, and they hope the on-screen lovers will get together in real life. This means the cast has good acting (making it convincing)."

The Empress Of China premieres on April 26 at 9.30pm on TVB First (StarHub TV Channel 860).