Empress of China is the ruler of Chinese TV



Hunan TV

Empress Wu Ze Tian (Fan Bing Bing) marries the Emperor (Zhang Fenyi).

Holly Chen, Staff Writer

The only female to ever become an emperor in Chinese history, Wu Zetian, is infamous for her ruthlessness and wit. Legend has it that she killed her own daughter, so she could blame it on the previous emperor’s wife to have her dethroned. China’s entertainment queen, Fan Bingbing, portrays the life and legacy of such a strong woman in her new TV show, “The Empress of China.”

Prepare to be amazed by beautiful garments and scenery. The costumes are all vibrant in color, and even eunuchs and maids don elaborate hairstyles and outfits. This TV show is the most expensive TV show ever produced in mainland China. It boasts a budget of $49.53 million U.S. dollars.

Not only does the show have stellar clothing, but it also has some of the most popular Chinese actors as titular characters. Zhang Fenyi ,the star of Farewell my Concubine (the only Chinese language film to ever win the Cannes Palme d’Or,) acts as Wu’s first husband, the Emperor Taizong. Fan’s real-life boyfriend, Li Chen, also stars as General Li Mu, Wu’s first love.

On Dec. 28, 2014, Chinese officials pulled the show from airing, claiming that the cleavage was too revealing. On Jan. 1, 2015, the show continued to air, with noticeable differences, such as CGI over the cleavages and all intimate scenes between the protagonists cut out. Despite this, viewership remained strong and the show ended as one of the most viewed television series ever to air in China.

Watch how a simple court dancer named Wu manages to get the affections of both the emperor of China and his son. Witness her transformation from a simple and kind young lady, determined to find true love, to a woman shaped by the trickery of the inner courts.

At times, the show may get boring, with 96 forty-five minute episodes, and an abundance of conflicts that could easily be resolved by talking things out. Also, its unrealistic portrayal of Wu as a simpering, naive young maiden is far from accurate. All her misdeeds are glamorized or not mentioned at all. And the love story between 14 year-old Wu and 40 year-old Emperor Taizong is at times hard to watch because of the age gap.

The love story between Wu and her second husband, Emperor Li Zhi, (played by rising star Aarif Rahman) is touching and beautiful to watch. Li’s unrequited love for Wu is lovely and pure, for he falls in love with her at her weakest moment and remains so despite the trials and tribulations of ruling an empire.

The show is heartbreaking to watch as favorite characters are killed out of the blue and Wu’s dream of true love is never fully granted. This series will evoke tears as viewers watch how innocent young ladies either succumb to the turmoil in the inner palace or break down from the pressure. The series ends on a melancholy note, as the Wu recalls her story to her grandson and envisions all the people she has met in the palace and their expressions.

“Empress of China” lacks in certain areas, such as its overly glamorized portrayal of Wu and using Chinese cinema clichés (evil concubines and manipulative servants), but makes up for these by creating a gorgeous story about how one woman’s quest for power teaches her one of the most valuable lessons of life: time and people are fleeting, but the memories of them are lasting and beautiful.

4.5 / 5 stars