It’s not as violent and there’s less skin, but popular Chinese series The Story of Yanxi Palace bears a lot of resemblance to Game of Thrones.
The Chinese series has reached over 17 billion hits online after being released on iQiyi on July 19 this year. The show is based in the Qing dynasty and follows a headstrong female protagonist named Wei Yingluo – a maid on a quest for revenge. Upon the murder of her sister, Wei enters the palace to wreak vengeance on her killer and win the approval of Emperor Qianlong by becoming a concubine.
The show’s plot centres on the themes of betrayal, envy, revenge, romance and transgression. The show is a faster-paced part of a genre in China known as ‘palace scheming’. It has a high-quality script, excellent costumes and set design, and strong actors. Beyond this, the show energises the genre by bringing a modern flair to it, especially with regards to how it challenges the stereotype of women as weak and helpless. Wei is sharp, witty and inventive, with a dislike for authority.
The Story of Yanxi Palace’s escapist nature and the lead character’s rising movement across social class may also contribute to the show’s popularity. Period dramas in general are quite popular in China due to their showcasing of traditional Chinese culture. Chinese arts, fashion and crafts are frequently visible in the show. Indeed, the show’s merchandise has become very popular and has even altered fashion and cosmetic trends.
The show’s producers apparently conducted a large amount of data research on previous viewer’s patterns to ensure that the series would triumph.
With over 70 episodes, it has already become known as China’s top online drama series, as well as being one of its most widely exported. The show is obtainable across more than 70 countries on sites such as YouTube.