While everybody and their sister were watching Story of Yanxi Palace, I watched Ruyi’s Royal Love in the Palace. Ruyi is the heroine Chinese palace drama has been waiting for. While she didn’t ask to be put in this situation, she handled it her way.
Ruyi’s Royal Love in the Palace is a lavish production, showing you what it means to be in the palace. I loved Ruyi’s outfits and especially her hair! But all of that does not erase the tensions of the story. Ruyi’s Royal Love in the Palace follows the life of our titular heroine after she enters the palace along with several other concubines. Prior to this, Ruyi (Zhou Xun) and Hongli (Wallace Huo) were childhood friends who managed to form a relationship because Hongli was not emperor material. However, that all changes with a significant royal death, and suddenly, it matters who Hongli marries. She didn’t even want to be in the running to marry Hongli. She was willing to let him go live his best royal life. But no! He coaxes her into showing up for the selection, and while she’s not chosen as first wife, she is obviously the one most favored by Hongli.
Hongli is played superbly by Huo, but that doesn’t stop him from being a punk. As usual, palace shenanigans ensue, because people do not like Ruyi for a whole host of reasons, few of which actually have to do with her. And while I was entertained by the way Ruyi and Hongli used Chinese poetry as code, I was not down for the way Hongli always thought the worst of Ruyi when the other wenchy concubines accused her of some thing or other. That’s supposed to be your girl! For a long time, Ruyi accepted it because she knew deep inside he was rooting for her but had to put on a show for the Empress Dowager and the court to keep its support. Even after she’s framed and sent to concubine prison (i.e. the cold unused palace), had an attempt on her life and saved other innocent concubines several times over, Hongli eventually had her back.
Until he didn’t. After Ruyi becomes the empress and one of his children dies, somehow he blames Ruyi. She wasn’t even around and it was clearly somebody else. Ruyi is heartbroken when Hongli suggest they “take a break” (what do you mean take a break, we’re married). Ruyi spends a lot of time in her palace thinking about it, and then she decides, she’s done. DONE! When Hongli completely loses his mind, has a mid-life crisis and starts hanging out in the equivalent of club, Ruyi doesn’t care. The other concubines then start to appreciate Ruyi and the way she kept Hongli on the straight and narrow, and they come whining to her to correct him. The last straw is when Hongli starts to neglect his emperor duties and cast shame on his position, and Ruyi goes to the house party boat to confront him. Thus begins one of the best scenes in Chinese historical drama I’ve ever seen. Hongli is whining about how Ruyi won’t let him have a good time, then he calls her out of her name. That’s it! Ruyi drops the mic: she picks up a knife, and cuts off a piece of her hair, drops it on slow motion, turns and leaves. Hongli is speechless, because this is effectively a divorce.
What makes Ruyi awesome is that she doesn’t change her mind afterwards. She doens’t regret it, and doesn’t care what other people think. She never falls for Hongli’s lame apologies, because she realized that he’s not the same. She sits in her palace and sews and gardens. She is utterly unconcerned with Hongli. Hongli does drive-by’s on her palace to peek to see her, but she pays him no mind. So he’s not around when she dies, and it’s only years later when he shows some form of repentance. Ruyi, like many women in palace dramas, are in situations where they have little control over their circumstances. But that doesn’t mean they just have to take it. Ruyi lives her life on her own terms, and in the end, she’s probably the happiest person in the palace.
“Ruyi’s Royal Love in the Palace.” My Fair Diva. 22 Apr 2019. http://myfairdiva.blogspot.com/2019/04/ruyis-royal-love-in-palace.html (17 Jan 2020).
Song Shen, “‘Ruyi’s Royal Love in the Palace’ brings a new light to Chinese historical drama.” CGTN.com, 31 Oct 2018, https://news.cgtn.com/news/3d3d774d31516a4d30457a6333566d54/share_p.html (Accessed 17 Jan 2020)
Imperial Relationships: Ruyi’s Royal Love in the Palace by CeeFu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.