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Wednesday, August 29, 2018, 11:22
Hit costume drama boosts popularity of Palace Museum
By Li Hongrui
Wednesday, August 29, 2018, 11:22 By Li Hongrui

The Yanxi Palace in the Palace Museum, in which concubine Ling featured in Story of Yanxi Palace lived. (PHOTO / VCG ; MTIME ; BEIJING DAILY)

As the online costume drama Story of Yanxi Palace wrapped up Monday, it has become another popular small screen work featuring concubines in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) after the 2011 TV series Empresses in the Palace.

Based on palace intrigue, called gong dou, these dramas mainly center on fights among a group of concubines of an emperor.

The Yanxi Palace, a lesser-known place in the Palace Museum, became a major attraction recently

Full of tricks, conspiracies, revenge and affairs, stories and dramas of this kind have spawned a whole new genre. Despite plethora of similar versions in recent years, the genre has not lost its appeal.

Story of Yanxi Palace proved it again and was viewed 13.3 billion times online by Aug 26. Its costume, makeup and plot all became a national topic within a month since its premiere.

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The drama also boosted the number of visitors to the Forbidden City after the Palace Museum appeared in the TV series.

According to Beijing Youth Daily, the Yanxi Palace, or Yanxi gong, a lesser-known place in the Palace Museum, became a major attraction recently. Many of the visitors came to see the venue where concubine Ling, the heroine of the drama, lived.

Built in 1420, the palace is located away from the main palaces on the east wing of the Forbidden City. The palace was originally called "Changshou", meaning "longevity", but was changed into "Yanxi" in the Qing Dynasty, implying "prolonged happiness".

Though concubine Ling did exist in history, there is no record she once lived at the Yanxi Palace.

As per Song Tong from the Qing Dynasty History Research Institute of Renmin University, the detailed records of concubines in Chinese history are sketchy. Since concubines often changed their residents in the Forbidden City, whether concubine Ling did live at the Yanxi Palace still needs to be proved.

The Chuxiu Palace in the Palace Museum, in which concubine Gao featured in Story of Yanxi Palace lived. (PHOTO / VCG; MTIME; BEIJING DAILY)

But this has not dampened the rising popularity of these venues in the Palace Museum this summer. 

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Lin, a visitor from Shandong province, said she especially flew to Beijing to visit the Yanxi Palace after watching the drama. However, the real one exceeded her expectation.

"The palace doesn't look like what I had imagined. I didn't expect a Western-style architecture, really beyond my imagination," the visitor said.

In fact, the Western-style part was added in 1909 when a concubine of the emperor Daoguang, Jin, intended to build a three-story architecture at the original Yanxi Palace, called Lingzhao Xuan. However, the concubine's wish never got a chance to be accomplished as the Qing Dyansty ended two years later.

Apart from the Yanxi Palace, Chuxiu Palace, Zhongcui Palace and Changchun Palace, are also receiving more visitors due to the drama series.

The red wall of the Palace Museum; a still from the drama series Story of Yanxi Palace. (PHOTO / VCG ; MTIME)

Other palaces that have appeared in popular TV products, including drama series Princess of Pearl, online novel adaptation Treading On Thin Ice and TVB's classic work War and Beauty, are also hot destinations among faithful audiences who came to visit the Palace Museum.

Some places on the screen do exist, while some are total fiction, such as Shufang Zhai where Little Swallow in Princess of Pearl lived.

A volunteer tour guide at the Palace Museum, Zhang Shen, believed a good route is to visit as many places as you can within limited time.

"But if you can spend all day there, hanging around is also interesting," Zhang said.

The Changchun Palace in the Palace Museum, in which Empress Fucha featured in Story of Yanxi Palace lived. (PHOTO / VCG ; MTIME ; BEIJING DAILY)

The Yikun Palace in the Palace Museum, in which Ruyi featured in Ruyi's Royal Love in the Palace lived. (PHOTO / VCG ; MTIME; BEIJING DAILY)

The Zhongcui Palace in the Palace Museum, in which concubine Chun featured in Story of Yanxi Palace lived. (PHOTO / VCG ; MTIME ; BEIJING DAILY)

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