TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — A television series about imperial palace drama in the 17th century has captivated viewers in Taiwan, but its emphasis on the dark side of human nature has made it less popular with cultural authorities in China.
“The Legend of Zhen Huan” has a Qing dynasty setting and its main characters are fictional concubines vying for the emperor’s affection. The lead role is witty Zhen Huan, who transforms from an innocent 17-year-old into a scheming dowager empress over decades in court. Initially victimized after rivals abort her baby by using poison, Zhen Huan learns to fight back and avenge the wrong she has suffered.
In Taiwan and on the mainland, fans of “Zhen Huan” see the dialogue as insightful on how to advance in the modern workplace. “If you want to live in this court, you must know the emperor’s likes and dislikes, and if you want to survive, you must know those of other women” is one frequently quoted line.
Liu Lianzi, 28, wrote the 76-episode drama series based on her 2007 novel. “Zhen Huan” could easily be a metaphor for her experiences striving for success among thousands of young Chinese writers on the Internet. In the cauldron of China’s voluminous online literature market, the mostly female devotees are ruthless in determining whether aspiring authors succeed or fail.
“The Internet has liberated all the external factors that have for long restrained women at work … and no one had anticipated that a woman, when breaking the silence, would have told a story that should totally distort our look at history,” Chinese writer Tzeng Yuan wrote recently in Taiwan’s China Times daily.
Taipei office worker Chiu Ying said she was enthralled by the court struggles depicted in the drama series “that are not unlike nasty office politics anywhere.”
“Zhen Huan has learned to rise up to the top the hard way, having to first deal with a jealous and wicked empress and then serving a suspicious and cruel emperor,” Chiu said.
The drama has also impressed fans with its luxurious costumes and court scenery, while imparting lessons on Chinese classical poetry, court etiquette and herbal medicine preparation. Perfume sales in Chinese stores are said to have plummeted at one point because characters in “Zhen Huan” used perfume-enhanced herbs to cause abortions.
The success of the series has spawned a number of Chinese copycats, which may have dismayed Chinese authorities.
Lin Hsi-hui, head of Taiwan’s Multimedia Production Association, said mainland associates told him the authorities there fear young viewers would get distorted work ethics from the series.
Authorities also feared the struggles might be seen as hitting too close to home in the midst of China’s just-completed once-in-a- decade power transition, Lin said.
Partly because of “Zhen Huan,” Lin said Chinese authorities had decided to limit historical dramas to just 10 percent of the total of next year’s complement of TV series.
China’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television did not immediately reply to a request for comment about the existence of the new restrictions.
But administration official, Wang Weiping, was quoted by the People’s Daily website as characterizing discussion of them as “speculation.”
More Related Stories
- Hillary Clinton memoir shows up on Amazon
- First look: Joaquin Phoenix, Marion Cotillard shine in "The Immigrant”
- A brief history of Jennifer Weiner's literary fights
- No women allowed: Summer music festivals are dudefests, again
- Vivica A. Fox tapes anti-gun PSA in front of poster for her movie
- This is what Guy Fieri looks like as a balloon
- Mariah Carey's rambling, cursing, dress-popping "Good Morning America" concert
- Fox's new reality TV show threatens regular people with unemployment
- Amanda Bynes arrested after hurling bong from window
- Steamy lesbian-sex movie has Cannes abuzz
- Stop what you're doing and go watch "Borgen"
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
- Mike Judge: "Bowling for Columbine" made me pro-gun
- New York chef serves up eight-course meal around "Arrested Development" jokes
- HLN: Jodi Arias "pleading for her life" got us a ratings win!
- Michael Ian Black on Maron feud: He "considered me a poseur"
- Chekhov's story mirrors Russia's own
- Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina denied parole
- Joe Francis apologizes for calling jury "retarded"
- Mary Karr: David Foster Wallace and I kept each other alive
- Morgan Freeman sleeps during televised interview
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11