“Legend of Zhen Huan” Becomes Smash Hit in Japan

Period drama Legend of Zhen Huan <后宮 甄嬛傳>, which stars mainland Chinese actress Betty Sun (孫儷) and Hong Kong actress Ada Choi (蔡少芬) in a story about a young woman’s rise to power in the Qing Dynasty palace, began airing in June on Japanese television station, Fuji TV. Wildly successful in its home country, Legend of Zhen Huan has led to much attention and heated discussion in Japan as well, further fueling the hope that the drama can become a household name worldwide.

The 76-episode-long series, which was split into three parts for its Japanese broadcast, was aired under the title Women Vying for Power in the Palace <宫廷の诤い女>. The name change was due to the hanzi and kanji characters for “zhen huan” (甄嬛), which are not frequently used in the Japanese language and are therefore unrecognizable to most Japanese viewers. However, some netizens complained that the new title was “too bare” and lacked the implicit appeal of the original.

Despite this complaint, Asia Republic Entertainment Inc., the Japanese company in charge of the broadcast, has nevertheless proven diligent in bringing the drama to Japanese viewers. The Japanese version uses the same voices as in the mainland Chinese original, but includes Japanese subtitles. Asia Republic Entertainment even added helpful explanations for phrases that Japanese viewers might have difficulty understanding, such as ancient Chinese poems that hold different connotations.

Successful Initial Reception in Japan

After just one week, Legend of Zhen Huan amassed more than 39 million Japanese viewers. A Fuji TV employee revealed that after the first episode aired, the number of hits for their Legend of Zhen Huan website multiplied five-fold, and that they also received many phone calls inquiring about the drama. Since the series airs at 5 p.m. on weekday evenings, it is particularly popular among housewives and students.

Legend of Zhen Huan has also become a hot topic on Japanese entertainment discussion forums. Many netizens praised the gorgeous costumes, stage props, and settings, as well as the cast’s strong acting skills. Favorites among the cast include Betty Sun, the female lead; Chen Jianbing (陳建斌), who portrays the emperor; and Rulu Jiang (蔣欣), who plays the irresistibly devious Hua Fei.

Some netizens shared that in order to catch the latest episode of Legend of Zhen Huan, they would immediately rush home after work. Others joked that they longed to take a leave from work so they can finish watching the series.

Certain viewers, however, have criticized the drama for its historical inaccuracy and its poor acting. “Out of all of Asia,” wrote one, “Chinese actors are the worst at crying scenes.”

International Acclaim for an “Immortal Masterpiece”

Prior to airing in Japan, Legend of Zhen Huan made waves in other parts of Asia, such as Taiwan, Korea, and India. In Taiwan, the drama achieved higher ratings than those for popular talk shows like Here Comes Kang Xi <康熙來了>. Taiwanese plastic surgeons even revealed that requests for “beautiful eyes like Betty Sun’s” surpassed requests for Korean-celebrity features.

Earlier this year, it was reported that an American company planned to adapt Legend of Zhen Huan for English-speaking audiences. The original Chinese version has already aired twice on Chinese-language channels in the United States, but the English version is still in the production stages. Although Chinese fans are skeptical of the English-language adaptation, claiming that the translation will be much too difficult, it is exciting to imagine the international future that the drama may hold. Taka Tsukazaki, the CEO of Asia Republic Entertainment, perhaps said it best when he called Legend of Zhen Huan “an immortal masterpiece that will still give rise to discussion even after five or ten years.”

Source: QQ.com

This article is written by Joanna for JayneStars.com.

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  1. I am living in USA and did watch this drama for a long time ago. It is OK but not great like War of Beauty ten years ago which produced by TVB. I forgot everything and nothing interesting remains in my mind after i watched it; some plots of the story were not reliable, heavy make-up actresses and too colorful costumes made the series looks suffocated.

    1. This is a new drama, how can you have watched it a long time ago???

      There are many adaptations, you are not talking about the current ‘Period drama Legend of Zhen Huan , which stars mainland Chinese actress Betty Sun (孫儷) and Hong Kong actress Ada Choi (蔡少芬)’

      1. This drama is more than 1 year ago. I watched episode 50++ when i was in Shanghai, China last April 2012 if not mistaken and kind of hooked to it for the few nights there 🙂

    2. I was wondering the same thing. If this drama is new then how did you watch it a long time ago??War and Beauty was not good in my opinion so I hope that this one is better.

      1. If you can understand Vietnamese language then go to “Thegioiphim.com” website then choose Trung Quoc phim and type in “search” icon “Chan Hoan Truyen” then the series will appears with total 76 episodes. Before I went to USA I was living in VN that why I can watch any series or movies with Vietsub title. I never tell a lie and I think that I have no need to tell a lie because it does not bring me any benefit.

      2. This series is I believe about 2 years old. It is a good series about a woman;s struggle with a largely unsupportive lusty husband. I have issues that this is set in Yong Zheng’s time, which I feel is inappropriate. There are many moments in this series that I feel is out of this world, like how the brother actually thought he has a chance with his brother’s wife. Silly moments. But the story about Hua Fei is the most magnetic one. The emperor however is a total dud.

      3. @thuongan; woo! I’ll be watching this in Vietnamese then

      4. @thuongan,
        Ok, no need to get so sensitive. I was just wondering… Yes, I do know Vietnamese and Chinese fluently. I prefer to watch in Chinese though since the dubbing in Vietnamese is annoying and is not accurate at times. Subtitles are even worse…

      5. If the ending is bad then it messes up the whole series. A series can be good but with a bad ending, that can really bring it down…

  2. Good for Asia Republic Ent. for adding Japanese subtitles and didn’t put voice subs. Legend of Zhen Huan is undoubtedly a masterpiece, just like Jewel In The Palace. LOZH is almost perfect in terms of make-up, dialogue, props, acting, casts and etc. I especially love the themesong, very entrancing.

  3. I watched a few episodes and while it’s a good series I wouldn’t finish it. I actually prefer watching BBJX, but glad LOZH is getting the fame and recognition it deserves 😛

    1. I have watched BBJX and think it is great. It’s not that long, only 35 episodes, and Legend of Zhen Huan is a bit too long ….. 76 episodes.

      LOZH could be my next big project to watch. If people have watched both drama series, please let me know which is a better one.

      1. i think there are only 45 -50nish episode for the dvd version. the tv version is 76 episodes. you should watch it on youtube~!
        i also perfer LOZH, i think it’s wayyyyyy better than BBJX

      2. i like BBJX a lot too. LOZH is also good, the customes are great, the dialogue are very well written.

        BBJX is good to watch it alone. relatively easy to digest. I would prefer to watch LOZH together with family or friends so you can discus the story and use of dialogue. ps: LOZH is so long that I need someone to prevent me from zapping all the time for the most interesting part (main story)

      1. i would say the pace in LOZH is a bit slow for me… prefer HK style… hahaha. But nevertheless the storyline and also Betty Sun kept me following the whole series. And frankly i dont like Mandarin speaking series to begin with.

      2. is LOZH mainly about oppression? hope it’s not romance /:

      3. I think almost any series is better than BTROC since that was one of the worse series that I have ever seen in my life.

      4. @thuongan; BTROC is “Beyond The Realm Of Conscience”. in Vietnamese it would be “Cung Tam Ke”. Yeah, I’m half Viet/Chinese (:

      1. Of course it is… It is even available in other languages so why not Cantonese??

  4. Forget about historical accuracy. It is a book and they just abritrarily chose Yong Zheng. Betty Sun’s acting was superb. So was the one as Hua Fei. Watch it for the women.

    1. I agree. It was SARFT who forced them to adapt the novel’s plot to a real dynasty with real facts so you have to clash fiction vs fact in some way to keep the flavour of the original book. How can people still be complaining about historical inaccuracies?

      I though given the circumstance,s, LOZH writers did a great job changing the setting from a made-up dynasty to the well-known Qing Dynasty. The pace and development of character was great and so was the choice of actresses. Chen Jian Bin did well too if you ignore his face, but that is SARFT’s fault that we did not get a cool hot emperor as in the level.

      Just Jiang Xin ad Sun Li are enough to make the series addictive, not to mention the beautiful sets and props and head ornaments. It is visually amazing.

      1. Oh so this is why lol! Wtb hot emperor, ty! Why do they force these fiction into a real dynasty? Just so we learn more about Chinese history? >_>

  5. Everything about this series was amazing. Like the article mentions the costumes, stage prop was so beautiful. After watching this I cannot watch any poorly produce TVB Qin series, probably why I skip WAB 2.

    1. true, i was slightly disappointed with WAB2 and guess it’s most likely if you have watch such a high quality show as LOZH. The WAB2 idea is good and creative but the execution could have been better.
      Most of the time you had a voice over (story teller), making sure you understand what is happening.

      ps: even Gong 1 fades next to LOZH.
      Gong is good, but customes and setting are less compared to LOZH. And the ending…I didn’t even feel like watching Gong 2 since they didn’t cast the original actors/actrices.

  6. I am so tired of these palace series… But if this series is good then I may give it a try if I have time, but 76 eps is a bit long…

    1. It is long and it is repetitive but it is also very well acted (not the emperor) and story well paced. It shows how one young concubine rising up the ranks and gets pretty disillusioned over everything in the end. I disliked the ending because suddenly she is the main decision maker when it wasn’t the case. And I feel it shouldn’t be set in Yong Zheng time. Everytime I watch this series, I kept remembering what the Yong Zheng in Yong Zheng Wang Chao said about the malicious rumours about him in the public and Zhen Huan series affirms those malicious rumours. I would believe it more if it is Qianlung’s era.

      1. Yea, these long and repetitive palace series are getting really boring. I watch with my mom and she complains constantly. She did not like BBJX either…I am shocked that you said Chen JianBing did not act well because he should be a good actor. I remember how well he did as CaoCao in San Guo, but maybe not in this role??? The ending sounds messed up too. I don’t think I would like this series. I saw this one Korean series about this one girl rising up in her ranks and it was 124 eps and was one of the worse series in the world… I really regret wasting my time watching it.

      2. Are you talking about dae jang geum as the HK drama that is “124 eps long” and was one of the worse series in the world… I really regret wasting my time watching it.”

      3. No, I am not talking about Dae Jang Geum because that was only 80 eps I think. That was not good but was better than that series that is 124 eps. It is about a queen that rose to ranks… Gosh was it sooo boring…

      4. I liked watching both Dai Cheung Kam (Korean) and BBJX (Mainland Chinese). I watched one or two episodes of LOZH, and found that it was super slow. Maybe I will change my mind if I watch the whole drama series from beginning to end.

      5. oh okay! I only watched dae jang geum.. haven’t watched dong yi/yi san/any other korean dramas except for the moon embraces the sun. 🙂

      6. dong yi is ok. and the moon that embraces the sun is lovely. try Queen Inhyun too. That one is easy and nice. and Rooftop prince. Yi san is on my list but it seems too long…
        even Da jeun gam I didn’t finish properly. Its a great serie but too long and skipped many parts…

        I tried Jang Ok Jung but too predictable about how they want to portray the character and I know she will die anyways. So I stopped after eps 10 or 11.

      7. Is Dong Yi dubbed into Cantonese? If yes, may i please know the website that i can watch this? My friend recommended to me but i was hesitant about watching Korean series not due to performance but cannot understand the language. And i dont read chinese 🙁

      8. I thought Dong Yi was ok and I liked it more than most of the historical Korean dramas. I heard that Princess something Ming is pretty good but did not see it yet. I thought DJG was a bit long and boring as well…But just what I think.

      9. Dong Yi should be dubbed in Cantonese but I don’t watch my series online so I can’t direct you to where to watch it. You can do a google search to see what you get. I enjoyed Dong Yi overall and it is the best historical Korean drama that I have seen. I have seen many others and they are all so boring.

      10. Hi thank you HeTieShou. What is the Chinese character for Dong Yi, anyone? Try searching in the net and matching the chinese words should be easier, HAHAHA. The problem with Chinese not knowing chinese characters. Thanks in advance to those who provide the answer 🙂

      11. I watched “同伊” (Dong Yi) on Fairchild Chinese TV in Cantonese. Personally I did not like it that much …… not many developments …. just fights among 2 concubines. However, I enjoyed “Dai Cheung Gum” very much ……….. better acting and storyline. I think “Dong Yi” and “Dai Cheung Gum” have similar numbers of episodes, but “Dong Yi’s” storyline is very flat and boring. I gave up on some episodes, and I watched “Dai Cheung Gum” twice.

      12. Haven’t watched Yi San/Dong Yi.
        But I did watch Dae jang geum like 4-5 times. Loved it, especially Hamangyeon featuring Safina. Very impressed since it is sung by an Italian opera singer.

      13. @Ray,
        You are welcome and if you can’t find it online, why not buy the DVDs to watch it?? I rarely watch my series online and still like my series on DVD/discs. I guess I am just old fashioned because watching series online is such a pain since you often come across slow connections, technical difficulties, etc..But I guess if the series is not good or you will only see it once, it may not be worth buying on DVD or collecting.

      14. HeTieShou
        Agree with you. It is a pain to watch a drama series online. I did it for “BBJX”, and I got so frustrated that I almost wanted to buy DVDs right away. I got disconnected or stuck during streaming at least four or five times in each episode. I almost wanted to give up. Since “BBJX” is so good, I may still consider buying the DVDs provided they are not too expensive. I don’t usually watch a drama series more than once though.

      15. @Sandcherry,
        I am glad that I am not the only one that experiences technical difficulties. I only saw a few series online and hated it since I always lost connection. I got the DVDs for BBJX and have only seen it once. I actually enjoy watching series that I like more than once and have done that a lot in the past. But there are some people that just want to collect DVD/disc sets and would buy them even if they do not really watch them. The DVDs should not be that expensive. I saw some that were really cheap, but it was highly compressed so the quality may not be that great. I got the deluxe edition which was a bit expensive but it came with other collectibles so I bought that version.

      16. Are the connection speeds in the suburbs so bad? Never experienced delays in speed despite streaming at 720p. HST, you should really watch zhen huan. I believe you would like it.

      17. @Nicole,
        Thanks for the recommendation but why do you think I will like Zhen Huan? I did not enjoy War and Beauty and BBJX was ok to me but not the best palace series I have ever seen, but I did like it overall.

      18. Because i dont like BBJX much myself, too much focus on lovey dovey slow-motion scenes. And acting, from LSS and Nicky and Kevin, is definitely not on the same level as Sun Li, Ada, Chen Jian Bing. I do like Liu shi Shi a lot, but her eyes lack that alertness and expressiveness of people like sun li or zhao wei.
        Among the other popular series you talk about, like schemes of a beauty or the young yang warriors, i realise your taste in series is quite similar to mine, maybe you can recommend me a series you love and i see if i like it.

      19. @Nicole,
        Yea, we do have similar taste in series. Hm… If that is the case then I may like Zhen Huan. My mom may like it as well since she did not like BBJX at all. She does not like series that are too lovely dovey and complained about it so much, especially during the final episodes. My mom hated War and Beauty too. I guess she I just difficult and it is hard for her to like any series these days. One series that she really liked was San Guo 2010(The three Kingdoms) and I enjoyed that as well. Other series that I really enjoyed were:
        Bi Xue Jian 2007
        Chinese Paladin 1 and 3
        The Myth(the series version)
        The Young Justice Pao 1 and 2
        Shui Yue Dong Tian
        and others that I do not remember at the moment… Those are some that I enjoyed but it is not a guarantee that you would enjoy them too. However, if you have not seen them yet then I would recommend them.

      20. I don’t remember if you liked Schemes of Beauty or not. I personally did not enjoy it much. It started out ok, but then became soooo draggy and redundant that I could not stand it. The same is with Qin Shi Huang Fei. I noticed that that seemed to be a trend with the series that Ruby Lin produced. They start out really promising, then gets really draggy, then rushes towards the end and then ends with a bad ending.

      21. No, i do not like it much. The problem is ruby never had the acting capabilities to shoulder such series. A better actress will be more effective.

      22. @sandcherry and HTS

        Chinese video sites like Tudou stream very slowly for me as well (IME they seem to lag very badly if you’re accessing them from outside of China), so I usually try to watch on YouTube as much as possible, it’s much faster.

    2. i love Dong Yi and Yi San!! lol
      the moon that embraces the sun was not good at all. Too overrated. Han Ga In acting was boring and stiff…

      btw HetieShou: Im also Vietnamese 😉

      1. I am Chinese and Vietnamese but prefer to watch my series in Chinese unless I can’t find it in Chinese. I watch the Korean series in Vietnamese as well if I can’t find the Chinese version.

  7. This is the best series about palace harem politics. It even one-ups WAB. I mean WAB was the pioneer, but Zhen Huan perfected everything, from the acting, the costumes, and zhen huan is more devious than any of those yee chun/yuk ying. Their plots were just all up in ruins by the end, and they had to run or die. She plots all the way until the emperor dies.

    1. Really?? Maybe I should give this series a try. She plots throughout the whole series?? I personally did not enjoy WAB so I wonder if I would enjoy this one??

      1. Not throughout. She genuinely loved him, then became bitterly disappointed in him, and then she plotted. She had to be devious since everybody else including the emperor is plotting.

      2. Oh ok, thanks for the info. But I wonder how interesting it can be since it is 70+ eps? I wonder what they would talk about???

      3. [SPOILERS] I did find her scheming through out the series though, she was definitely more defensive in the beginning, then becoming more opportunistic after being disillusioned about the emperor’s love, and lastly all about vengeance, in the way she forced the empress to her dwellings, when the empress just wanted to hide from her. Haha

      4. Wow, sounds intense but I really wonder how scheming can remain interesting throughout such a long series??

      5. FYI, ZH is not devious by nature but she learned that it’s either do/scheme or die and only ZH has the right combination of scheme&forgiveness to become so powerful.


        “in the way she forced the empress to her dwellings, when the empress just wanted to hide from her”

        Wasn’t the empress just trying to stay out of trouble but very close to uncovering the secret about the twins? Sorry, trying not to say too much and spoil the story for those who have yet to see it.

      6. I’m up to 24 ATM, n it’s slow lol. So expected it to be slow! I’m like most who goes omg, not another palace scheming series again. But unlike other drama, this one has quite decent acting. Maybe cos its slow, the characters get to slowly display their emotion, u get to really understand why they think n do thing certain way, though because of this, it’s slow and predictable. I didn’t think I would enjoy it, but it’s ok to watch, a lot better than other series where I can’t stand even 1 episode to finish it. This one might get finished lol, if it didn’t go any slower than this.

    2. She has no choice in order to protect herself and her child conceived with the King’s brother.

      1. Though i didn’t watch everything. i really liked it that at some point you would think she has changed totally as she has been plotting al the time alone or with others. But then you find there is some part of her that is still sincere.

        Warning spoilers beneath.

        During the later episodes she was willing to sacrifice for the emperors brother (by replacing the cup of poisoned wine.) But the emperors brother knows her very well and switch it back for himself to drink.

      2. What, she has an affair with the king’s brother???

  8. I watched this series last year as I had nothing else to watch, and suprisingly I finished all the epsidoes! I agree with everyone that it was way too long and could have finished in 35 episodes! Long drama’s does not necessarily mean the content is good. I also agree the ending was really sh!T! Disappointing.
    Though I agree the costumes and cinematography is pretty amazing. It is great news that its been well received in Japan. Didnt I read not long ago that they plan to air this in USA as well but a shorter version? Has this been confirmed yet?

    I absolutely love BBJX. At least its funny/entertaining/has more male actors (compared to LOZH) and has a touching storyline! Its a series people will remember and the theme song is beautiful.
    BTROC was pretty slow, and didnt have enough scheming compared with WAB and LOZH. It was just all Tavia Yeung herself that was the bad person.
    WAB2 was awful, total let down. Had no idea what their dialogue was about and just too complicated to follow. Waste of time! I stopped watching it after a few episodes.

    1. The storyline of BTROC was not that good compared to WAB. “BBJX” was so much better compared to the scripts of BTROC and WAB.

      WAB2 – The dialogues were not complicated or hard to follow. It was just the problem of streaming too many short scenes at one time. It was rather hard for people to follow unless they did not do anything but just watched the drama series (very few people would do it these days due to multi-tasking).

      1. @Sandcherry,
        Really?? I guess you have to not leave the TV in order to understand WAB2. My mom will have problems since she often closes her eyes and goes to do stuff while watching. I think she will complain again…

      2. No really, the dialogue was hard to follow. They use too many complicated words/sentences. Even Christine Ng and Sheren Tang had admitted it was hard for them both to remember their lines and they often were quite stressed!

      3. It is because the dialogues were classical Chinese which is a lot harder to understand and memorize. Compared to the ones in “War and Beauty”, the dialogues in “Beauty at War” were so much simpler and easier. I had no problem to understand them, but I had difficulty in understanding the dialogues in “War & Beauty” some years ago, and my classical Chinese has not improved one bit.

      4. Ok if it is Classical Chinese then it would be hard to understand. I took a class of it and it gave me a headache.

  9. It’s not a bad series, I’m watching it at the moment. The beginning of the story is hard to chew as I don’t see any of the leads as being extremely beautiful like they keep on saying >_< to me, the main lead is just ok looking, I haven't found her beautiful at all, her cousin got pretty in some scene, n her friend is decent enough. But it irks me that I the first episode, for 15mins, they have to keep going on about how these 3 are beautiful, kinda trying to hypnotise us to think so -.- once u get over it, u can start to enjoy it a bit more. The story isn't great, but it's watchable. Pretty predictable, not many scheming like Ruby lin's series. The love story with the king is nothing new, rather it heading the predictable way lol. But seriously, the king is so old looking, I guess for the sake of correct portrayal, but it does irk u lol. Young girl falls in love with really old dude (erh, what lol?), then old dude goes flirty, eww (haven't got to this part, but it's not surprising lol) lol!
    I know the old thinking would be you should love your husband despite ages, but say u add like another 10-20yrs, the king would be 60 xD then repeat the young girl falls in love n he went flirty, massive eww xD I'm waiting to see what Ada will be doing as the series is going, ATM, she is really a supporting character despite being a queen

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