The traveler’s guide to ‘Story of Yanxi Palace’ locations
WELL-loved Chinese Qing dynasty drama series Story of Yanxi Palace has finally ended its 70-episode run, breaking viewership and streaming records in China and other parts of the world.
The addictive story, which revolves around the power struggle between backstabbing concubines in the palace, was so overwhelmingly popular that it propelled its lead actors to superstardom overnight and changed the landscape of Chinese dramas as the world knew it.
During its three-month run, Story of Yanxi Palace shattered viewership records, setting the single-day online viewership record on Aug 12, 2018, with a total of 530 million views – and that is just China alone.
It cinched the title of the most widely distributed drama in the world, available in more than 70 markets including Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, Canada, the US, Vietnam, India, and more.
But why was Story of Yanxi Palace so appealing?
It boasts a stellar cast from all around the region: Hong Kong actress Charmaine Sheh (step Empress Nala), Chinese actor Nie Yuan (Emperor Qianlong), Chinese actress Wu Jinyan (Wei Ying Luo), Singaporean actor Lawrence Wong (Hai Lan Cha) and Chinese actress Qin Lan (Empress Fucha).
Other than the gripping storyline, everything about the production is meticulously detailed, with costumes that were specially made for the show and painstakingly embroidered according to the person’s rank during the Qing dynasty with techniques from the Qianlong era.
Even the velvet flower hair accessories were also made based on existing designs in the Palace Museum.
More importantly, Story of Yanxi Palace is based on some real characters and a real place.
Adapted from historical texts into a more modern-day storyline with contemporary conversations, the drama highlights the personal goals of concubines aside from sleeping with the Emperor.
The palace in which the story takes place, the Yanxi Palace, was originally constructed in the year of 1420 in the Forbidden City, during the Ming Dynasty. From then until the end of the Qing Dynasty, it was where many forgotten concubines lived and died.
Shortly after that, a Chinese plane dropped a bomb on the Yanxi Palace, annihilating it to oblivion. In 1931, it was, rebuilt as a storeroom, the only modern building made of armored concrete in the Forbidden City.
Now, thanks to the remarkable popularity of Story of Yanxi Palace, the site where it once stood has become the most popular area to visit in the Forbidden City, otherwise known as the Palace Museum.
Because not much is left from the original Yanxi Palace, everything had to be recreated by artisans and craftsmen. And where better to house an 18th century Beijing set but the largest film studio in the world?
Hengdian World Studios, located in the city of Dongyang in Zhejiang Province, China, consists of 13 shooting bases with a total area of 3,300,000 square meters.
The area is frequently used to shoot dramas and movies that are set in olden day China such as Zhang Yimou’s 2002 movie Hero, Hong Kong TVB drama A Step into the Past, and Rob Minkoff’s Chinese-American fantasy film The Forbidden Kingdom.
It is home to a score of attractions including the grand and beautiful full-scale replica structure of the opulent Palace of the Ming and Qing dynasties, perfect for the production of Story of Yanxi Palace.
Those who are interested in visiting Hengdian World Studios to relive the most sensational moments in Story of Yanxi Palace may do so as it is open to the public but for a small entrance fee of CNY178 (US$25.91).
Getting there: From the Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport, transfer to an airport shuttle bus to go to Hengdian World Studios near Hengdian Resort Hotel.