The Legend of Zhen Huan: Ep 76 (Finale)

Chinese DramasDrama Reviews

It’s finally here, the final episode.  I know I’ve delayed writing this review for a REALLY long time after I finished episode 76.  I just could not summon the strength to write up the final review for what is perhaps one of my most favorite dramas of all time.  There are so many feelings I have attached to this ending that it is hard to put it into words.  And it didn’t really help when, after writing a bit about each scene from ep76 I would just HAVE to go back and rewatch all the good scenes over and over again. T_T”  Well, we’ve already seen the endings of many other major characters that will always stick with me–Hua Fei, Mei Zhuang..even Ling Rong.  But what about Zhen Huan’s ending?


Well, the first 15 minutes or so is for sure the best part of this entire episode.  I was basically holding my breath throughout this entire scene.  Zhen Huan ‘takes care’ of the emperor on his death bed and this is when crap goes down.  Omg.  This is probably the most direct and raw conversation that Zhen Huan and the emperor have ever had.  There are no more pretenses, no secrets and finally Zhen Huan can tell the emperor the truth about how much she hates him.  It starts out a bit ambiguous as both of them are reading between the lines, but it quickly turns into a very grim exchange.

Emperor: “I own everything under the sun, but it will be yours soon.”

Zhen Huan: “Why would I want everything in the world? I never got what I really wanted.”

Emperor: “My whole life, I’ve gotten all I’ve ever wanted. But just like quicksand, it has all vanished.  Huan Huan, it’s been a while since you’ve called me Fourth Prince.  Call me that again, okay?” -Translation Credit: Viki channel

URGHHHH.  The thing that’s sad about this is that both the emperor and Zhen Huan have obtained the most power of all and yet they both are unhappy.  They both haven’t gotten what they really wanted since they lost all the people they loved, and with their great power it is hard for them to ever trust another person since they must be suspicious of everyone.  I find it really bittersweet when the emperor asks Zhen Huan to call him Fourth Prince (notice he uses her nickname) one last time…he who has everything in the world only has that one request.  It’s no secret that I don’t like the emperor and, most of the time, I cannot empathize with him but this is that one moment in the scene when I felt something for him.  Because I saw him as a person who just couldn’t let go of his past.

“Call me Fourth Prince one last time.  Just like when you first entered the palace.”

In many of my reviews about the previous episodes, I’ve speculated over and over again over this one question “Does the emperor love Zhen Huan for who she is, and not for who she resembles?  Is the emperor using Zhen Huan as a replacement for Chun Yuan?”   In this last scene, I think I can finally say once and for all that the emperor really did fall for Zhen Huan back in the day……yes, his love for her was flawed; there is no denying that he projected Empress Chun Yuan onto Zhen Huan, failed her in so many ways, and broke her heart countless numbers of times.  But there is something about the quote above “Just like when you first entered the palace” that struck me–the emperor is still dwelling on the way Zhen Huan was in the past–pure, innocent, lively and unaffected by the politics of the harem.  He’s still remembering the ‘ideal’ Zhen Huan that he knew in the past, the one he fell in love with.  Just as he is always chasing his memory of Empress Chun Yuan, he is still stuck on his memory of who Zhen Huan was in the past. But I guess you could kinda discredit my very romanticist interpretation by pointing out that very quickly the emperor switches to “I WILL KILL YOUUU!!!” after she spills the beans about Mei Zhuang’s illegitimate child.  >__>


I find it interesting that Zhen Huan excuses herself right before the emperor repeats his request to call him 4th Prince.  But once he says those words she decides to confront him. Did she plan on leaving him to die alone?  But then the emperor’s words struck a chord in her so she stayed behind to tell him the truth & to personally exact her revenge?

ZH: “The old Zhen Huan is already dead. Your highness, did you forget?  You killed her with your bare hands.  My name is Niuhulu Zhen Huan.”

One thing this scene makes clearer than ever is how much Zhen Huan has changed since she entered the palace.  We have always seen Zhen Huan as the heroine and protagonist, someone who was easy to root for and sympathize with.  But the lines have blurred continually between good and bad, the heroine and the enemies.  Remember back in the way way beginning when Zhen Huan totally freaked out after she saw a maid’s corpse in a well?  Well now she can order someone’s death without batting an eye.  Yes, Zhen Huan is defending her position in the harem, but what I’m trying to say is that we can’t always view Zhen Huan in a totally positive light just because she is the heroine.  She has done questionable things, she has compromised her initial moral principles, and she has become merciless and unrelenting when it comes to eliminating all competition.  Her power came with a price and perhaps that price was her innocence.

So no matter how much I dislike the emperor I don’t think he deserved an excruciating death.  There is this one line where Zhen Huan tells the emperor that what she’s doing is nothing in comparison to what he has done.  This is when we get a deeper insight into Zhen Huan’s reasoning, how she justifies his murder with the flawed belief that this is all relative.  With her reasoning, the emperor has done way worse than her so it’s not THAT bad to kill him.

And this is really random but……one thing that kinda irked me throughout this whole scene……is that we always see the emperor from the same angle.  Come on, at least give us a side view or something so we don’t have to look up his nose the whole time! T___T


“Fourth Prince, on that idyllic afternoon many years ago, you told me you were Duke Guo.  It was probably all a mistake from the beginning.”

So, the emperor dies.  I love the way Zhen Huan reacts to his death, very little is said and yet we can see a whole range of emotions that she is going through.  There is no freaking out over his death, no evilly laughing and proclaiming “SEE 17TH? I AVENGED YOUR DEATH!”, no suddenly trying to wash her hands repeatedly from the invisible blood, no long speech of “omg what have I done”.  Thank goodness there is none of that.

Zhen Huan’s reaction is so understated and yet SO GOOD.  OMGGGGGGGGGGGGG.  I guess the best word to describe her reaction is “numb”.  She is cautious at first, wanting to confirm whether he is really dead.  And once she knows he’s dead, her final words to him are so bittersweet…I think it shows how she did not just kill the guy she hated most, she didn’t just avenge her lover’s death..she killed the man that she used to love and the man she used to devote her life to.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE the part when she steps out into the empty room and proclaims over and over again that the emperor is dead as her eyes well up with tears.  HOLD ON I’M GONNA GO WATCH THAT PART AGAIN..


I think the tears that Zhen Huan shed right after the emperor’s death were genuine, but during his funeral she is only fake-crying just like most of the other concubines are.  Anywhoo Zhen Huan is now empress dowager with her 4th prince succeeding the throne.   Now that the emperor is gone and Zhen Huan is boss, Zhen Huan & Co. are all LA LA LA LIFE IS GOOD!  And surprisingly, Duan Fei is MIA because she is too grief-stricken over the emperor’s death!  So instead Xin Fei (I can’t remember her rank..middle right pic) is now officially part of Zhen Huan & Co.  I was not expecting her character to end up on top at all but I guess that shows that it was possible for her to stay out of harem politics while eventually benefiting in the end.

Too bad Ning Pin commits suicide because I really liked her character. :'(  I thought she could’ve lived on..I mean maybe she wouldn’t be able to leave the palace but I’m sure she could’ve done as she pleased with Zhen Huan on her side.  But I think she might’ve committed suicide so that there wouldn’t be anymore evidence about the emperor’s murder?


There is one final scene with the empress and Zhen Huan.    I guess this scene was necessary because we had to see the two empresses together one last time, eh?  Well this is supposed to be a major scene but I think my understanding of it was not too great because of the lackluster translations.  Please tell me what I missed or if I’m wrong because this scene is kinda murky for me.  From what I gathered it was basically showing how the empress is still obsessing over her rightful title as empress and how Zhen Huan ruined her life.  And Zhen Huan gets the final revenge on the empress by removing her title from the records or something.  The lasting impression I have of the empress is when she is ironically repeating “Empress” to herself as though she is finally realizing that the title is all meaningless.


Zhen Huan has one last costume change as empress and omg, her new headpiece is so gorgeous!  As you can see I took many screenshots of it since it is the very last one!!!!!!!  I like it because it’s very refined and regal yet also not too flashy.  One thing I love about the ending is that Zhen Huan does not have an obligatory ending monologue, there is no attempt to preach life lessons or have a super memorable quote or anything like that.  Our view into her mindset is now limited because the people she used to confide in (Mei Zhuang, 17th) are now gone.  Zhen Huan is all alone despite having her allies, Jin Xi, and her children by her side.  Love the part where she sheds a single tear and then smiles, again such an understated detail but very powerful.


“Jin Xi, I’m tired.”

Don’t have much to say about the ending scene except that I really like how one of her last lines in the drama is when she tells Jin Xi that she’s tired.  A very simple line..but it struck me then and there that Jin Xi is the only companion she has left and after attaining the highest status, she doesn’t seem any happier than she was back when she was experiencing the turmoil of going up against the other concubines.  Comparing Zhen Huan to her younger days, I think that she was happiest when she, Mei Zhuang, and Ling Rong had just entered the palace and they were all besties who were still optimistic about their life in the harem.


Well this is my last LZH post so I worked extra hard on it. I tried harder to read between the lines and interpret Zhen Huan & the emperor’s characters more since they are the main highlight of this episode and they are also the characters who have built up the most walls around them.  Zhen Huan started out as being a characters whose thoughts and motivations were clear and out in the open..but gradually she began to wear her heart on her sleeve less and less until we could no longer know exactly what she was feeling and thinking.  The emperor remained closed off to everyone, even to Zhen Huan there was a part of him that was restrained and we could see this in his final scene.

It’s hard to describe just why I loved the Legend of Zhen Huan so much, all I can say is that all 76 episodes, despite their slow parts, have been a great watch.  Before watching LZH I really thought nothing could top Bu Bu Jing Xin but of course, LZH proved me wrong.  To me LZH is a masterpiece, I can never get tired of watching random episodes/scenes over and over again.  The costumes and acting cannot be beaten, the writing was spot-on and I love how LZH was NOT some romanticized tale of a love story with the emperor, nor was it an overly dramatic weep-fest when the characters constantly bemoan their fate of being a concubine stuck in the palace.

I will forever be a fan of Sun Li, Lan Xi, and JIANG XIN! and of course other actresses have left great impressions on me–particularly the ones for the characters Jing Fei, Cao Gui Ren, and maybe Duan Fei.  The draw of the drama may not be a ‘big name cast’ for all the characters but wow, they really casted all of the side characters wonderfully (except for 17th, what was with his casting? T_T)  and all of them had substantial character development.

………….One day I had someone comment using the username “lzhfreak” and YEAH I think I should use that username too because that is what is what I am.  I admit it and I’m pretty sure everyone already knows it.  😉  Even after I’ve finished the drama for so long, I still go back and rewatch a random scene, look for more pretty stills of the drama, and even listen to the soundtrack and keep up on news about the cast.  I can’t help it!  >__<  Anyways I will stop ranting about how awesome LZH is, HAHAHA…to all of my readers who have stuck with me for all of my reviews, thanks so much and I hope you enjoyed the drama as much as I did.  Hopefully you were not disappointed if you checked out LZH based on my RAVING REVIEWS.  And to those occasional commenters who told me that they tried LZH based on my reviews and enjoyed the drama, thank you!  Whenever I get those comments I feel like I’ve successfully lured over one more person into LZH, HAHA.  😛

In other news, Sun Li has been nominated for an International Emmy Award for her performance in LZH!  Woot woot!  Lastly I will say that this may be my last review post about LZH but it will not be the last time I will talk about LZH…because I will never shut up about this drama! 😛   I will probably be going back and updating some of my old reviews so that I can get rid of the ‘bandwidth exceeded’ pics in them. >__<

Other LZH-related posts:

Zhen Huan & Emperor’s final scene

Theme Songs (Live Performance) by Yao Bei Na (0:10-4:18)



I'm heisui, an Asian drama blogger and the creator of My Drama Tea. I love stories and writing, so I watch dramas and blog. I especially have a penchant for Japanese and Chinese dramas, and those hidden gems that are waiting to be discovered. Oh, and I'm Legend of Zhen Huan-obsessed!
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  • Wow…. you finally updated ep 76 and here I thought it will take forever for you to do that ^__^

    For the Zhen Huan and the Empress confrontation, the Empress requested for her since it was the coronation day which mean there was two dowager empresses in the palace.

    Empress: how could there is a cruel mother who didn’t put her son as a King?
    Zhen Huan: I am more worried if my son marry a cruel woman like you (or something like that)

    They talked and then Zhen Huan asked the Empress if she still remembered about the late Emperor order. She did. The order stated that he didn’t want to see the Empress again. So, Zhen Huan and her son (the new Emperor) decided that they would erase the Empress from history.
    (In real life, Yongzheng Emperor only had one Empress.)

    And one thing, why didn’t you write about Zhen Huan and the new Emperor conversation. It was interesting when Qianlong tried to gauge Zhen Huan’s reaction since he wasn’t really her biological son. And then ZH told him to make her son (6th prince) into 17th prince adopted son.

    • Haha, so I guess it wasn’t too long of a wait for my last review? I had a lot of people wondering where it was so I figured they thought I was being very slow at writing the last review heheh. (which..I was being very slow..)

      Thanks for the clarification. And actually I think I totally missed the whole meaning of the new emperor & ZH’s conversation. T_____T””

      • When ZH was with her son, the new Emperor called for her.

        Qianlong told her that Duke Shen wanted to adopt 17th son who had lived with them since 17th prince/Huanbi passed away. Duke Shen and ZH’s little sister only had one daughter.
        ZH said it was okay.

        Then Qianlong said: I have read a book. It tells about a mother who beat her own child. If a biological mother could do that, then what about adopted mother? He said that while looking at ZH meaningfully.

        ZH: It is good if Emperor read the book. I’ve been thinking…6th prince is my son and I don’t want rumour about him to surface in the palace. How if we make him as 17th adopted son?

        Qianlong who was supper happy to hear it then said he would bestow 6th prince Duke Guo title when he got older.
        He also said that ZH had been so kind with him and he would repay her kindness.

        And in history, Qianlong really loved her mother. He always took her to trips which were designed to her pleasure.

    • just wanna say i really enjoy reading your blog! like u (i think) i understand most of the chinese they say in the drama but the finer details… lost on me. wish there can be some like ZHZ marathon session with all the fans (and english subtitles) ahhhhhhh!!!!!!

      • Thanks duan! 🙂 Oh just to clarify though I do not understand most of the Chinese (more like……..BARELY ANY) so I am very dependent on the subtitles. I lose a lot of details since the subtitles are often not translated very well. Oh yes MARATHON TIME!! Actually I like to go back and just watch random scenes from it, I haven’t done an official rewatch where I go from episodes 1-76 all in order. It feels so bittersweet when I watch the earlier episodes because everyone is so different from how they turned out in the ending. >_<

    • So in the end, ZH kills the emperor but also kinda honors his death by letting him be with Chun Yuan? Do you think this means she sorta forgave him/sympathized with him or if this was only to spite the empress?

      • I think she sympathized with him but also hated him for betraying her again and again as well as killing 17th prince. This was imperial palace. You couldn’t be Emperor if you’re weak. As concubines too, if you’re weak you would be eaten alive.

        Anyway, I notice your post about Xin fei (forget her title). I think it is really funny that she survives to the end and now enjoyed the life as ZH minions. She wasn’t part of Hua Fei cohorts. Neither she was part of the Empress’s inner circle.

        Oh, I’m going to visit Beijing next year. One of the places to go of course is Forbidden City. Can’t wait to see the real palace ^ ___^

        • Yeah I guess Zhen Huan would not forgive the emperor but her feelings towards him are more complex than just pure hatred..after all she was his companion for so I guess they both have the ‘common enemy’ of the Empress.

          And I know right!?!? Who knew that one day Xin Fei would end up coming out on top? I guess in her case, staying out of the harem politics actually paid off and she knew when to make the right move at just the right time.

          Ooooo cool! The Forbidden City is huge and there are tons of tourists there. Hope you enjoy it!

  • Yeah. Len got to it before me. I’ll re-state it in case you are still confused. Couple things but you got almost everything for the most part.

    1. Last scene with Empress and Zhen Huan. The Empress was basically kinda insane at this point and the only thing holding her together was the idea that, since when the Emperor was still alive she maintained the title of Empress, she should be bestowed with a title higher than Zhen Huan. She said something like if Zhen Huan was the Empress Dowager then she should be the Queen Mother Empress Dowager… something like that… titles are hard to translate. But yeah. That’s when Zhen Huan tells her that she won’t forget the Empress during this time and tells her she will give her the title of “Empress.” This is when the Empress goes beserk and tries to strangle Zhen Huan. Zhen Huan then talks about how the Emperor didn’t want to see the Empress again in life or death. If the Empress became an Empress Dowager, she would have to be buried with the Emperor upon her death and this would directly violate the Emperor’s wishes. Therefore, the Emperor would be buried with his original love Chun Yuan and when the Empress died, she would get a consort’s burial. Zhen Huan then tells the Empress basically that she’s a horrible person for harming so many people and causing the Emperor to lose his first love and that she should feel grateful that the Emperor was willing to maintain her status to the extent he did. She then told the Empress that the Emperor hated her. The Empress then questions whether it is the Emperor or Zhen Huan that is hating her now. Zhen Huan then says that to get to today’s Zhen Huan was all through the Empress’s “helpful assistance and encouragement” and that she is forever indebt to her and will do everything she can to pay her back and leaves. The Empress is left moaning and her title “Empress” in despair.

    2. I think it’s implied that Ning Pin’s suicide was more because she had avenged 17th and she saw no reason to live before and wanted to join him in death.

    3. You missed two of my favorite subtle parts about the last episode. One was after Ning Pin’s suicide when Zhen Huan was sitting there with her allies (minions) after she had talked to the Empress. The new Empress and consort come in to pay their respects to Zhen Huan. Remember, the consort is from the Ulanara clan (she’s the main character in Ruyi Zhuan) and was once the girl that the Empress was trying to marry off to her adopted son to help maintain the clan’s power. However, this girl got pissed when she found out the adopted son didn’t like her and the Empress suggested this girl become his concubine and she said that “back in the day, the Empress was only a secondary wife.” The Empress saw this as a slight and had her married as a “secondary wife” to Zhen Huan’s adopted son and now emperor to spite the girl.

    But anyhoo. They come in and Zhen Huan tells the now consort that her aunt, the Empress, just passed away and that, as a member of her clan, she should go to pay her respects. The consort says, perhaps a bit out of personal anger at the Empress, that the Empress is the enemy of the nation and she would not go visit the “traitor.” The look Zhen Huan gives the girl is priceless. In Chinese culture, disrespecting or being unable to balance filial duties, sometimes even when they are not deserving of the respect, is seen as very bad. In Chinese culture, it is important that the family maintains an image of cohesiveness to outsiders even though there might be infighting going on. Therefore, the look Zhen Huan gave her was kinda the “looks like you would be the kind of person to sell out others to get what you want” look. Therefore, Zhen Huan continues on and says that the Emperor will be holding consort selections soon and tells the two of them not to try anything because she doesn’t want to put up with b.s.

    The next part that I loved was when the new emperor came to visit Zhen Huan before she takes a nap. The Emperor basically makes some of his insecurities known. He says that he was reading and used that as a reference to talk about how he was feeling. He basically implied that “Zhen Huan, you were able to support me and bring me to the position I am today as emperor. However, I am not your son by birth. It is unavoidable that you will favor your birth child over me. Therefore, I want to know if you will every try to overthrow me to put your birth son on the throne when he comes of age.”

    Zhen Huan gives him a knowing look and smiles and says it is good that he is reading such things since they are necessary for an emperor. She says that he has something she has been thinking about that she had wanted to tell him and says that she wishes to move her birth son from the imperial family register to 17th prince’s imperial register. She says that she is unwilling for any throne contentions or infighting to take place when she could have easily prevented it. The emperor leaves happy and Jing Xin is like, “but… but…” and Zhen Huan goes “It needs to happen. When his father was alive, my birth son couldn’t call him ‘father.’ They should at least be together in death.” After this she says she’s tired and goes to take a nap.

    But YAY for finishing up Zhen Huan Zhuan!! Now, for continuous re-watching!! 🙂 btw… is subbing in English finished for Zhen Huan Zhuan yet?

    • Wow I really missed a lot in the scenes with the empress/ZH, the new emperor/ZH, and the bit about the new emperor’s concubine. All of those details were totally lost in translation. >____<

      • Oh yeah. It was also artistic how Zhen Huan refused to call the Emperor “Fourth Prince” until after he died and she closed her eyes and was all like “Fourth Prince. Back when we first met, you told me you were 17th Prince. Maybe we were wrong from the very beginning.”

        • Yup I got that part!! I really like the way ZH said it too. I think the voice actress especially nailed the dying scene! And I also like the line because it made me think back to the very beginning when this all started. I never thought about how ZH fell in love with the emperor when he was pretending to be 17th until she said that line…connecting the dots…

      • ZH somehow trapped the empress by using the late dowager’s will which indicate that
        ulanara empress can’t be deposed (which is why the emperor has to keep her as empress)
        so to follow the dowager’s will, she remains as empress till her death.

        watched ZH 4 times to understand and follow their subtle conversation or just by
        looking at each other. it is one of the best drama produced by china

        while holiday in Yunnan last week, saw on local tv the drama ‘hot mama’. sun li looks
        youthful and refreshing. big difference from ZH

        • I think it is super smart of ZH to figure out the way to abide by the dowager empress’ will while still getting back at the empress after her death. o_o

          I’m also watching Hot Mom; saw the first couple episodes and it is great so far! And yeah Sun Li’s role in Hot Mom is so different from her role as Zhen Huan and also a lot of fun. 😀

  • Hi OkuoO

    I’m rather confused about what you said. The Ulanara consort was going to be the main character in Ruyi? But her life ended tragically in real life.

    The Ulanara Empress was known as Step Empress. When Qianlong first empress passed away, the Dowager Empress ordered Qianlong to make Ulanara his second empress. She then lost Qianlong’s favour. Until now, the reason is unknown. (The rumor said that she cut her hair) And Qianlong even gave death sentence to scholar who dared to speak in her behalf.

    • That’s what it seems like. I can’t really read Chinese and it’s a work in progress so maybe you can give more clarification but according to this wikipedia page for Ruyi Zhuan, if you click on “烏拉那拉•如懿” it links to the second page so… But it is wikipedia… there’s a possibility it is wrong. If it’s right, I guess this is going to be a sad ending kind of story.

      • The highest position a woman could have at Forbidden City was Empress Dowager.

        I think that was the reason why people chose Yongzheng era because his rule was short (only thirteen years) therefore the main character (Zhen Huan) could ascend to power and had happy ending.

        From history, it was very rare that a concubine or empress or empress dowager got happy ending. Most of them ruled in their peak but when they’re old, they were dismissed. Some even killed by the Emperor because as we all know Emperor’s love was fickle.

        • So I guess that would make more sense why ZH wouldn’t be involved in power struggles in the sequel…since once she’s old she will begin to lose her power. Kinda sad actually.

          • Yes. But Qian Long respected and loved his mother very much. Therefore till her death, the Empress Dowager still had power in the palace.

            Do you know Ruby Lin’s drama, Scheme of Beauty? While her acting was wooden and too much coincidence in the storyline that the drama became so absurd, her character, Empress Dowager Dou, in history was one of the rare women who had happy ending.

            Being a favourite concubine couldn’t save you if your son didn’t ascend to the throne or if she couldn’t have good relationship with the new Emperor’s mother. In fact, many of those favourite concubines were tortured and killed as soon as the new Emperor took place. It was like, ‘I couldn’t do anything to you while my husband was alive but now he is dead and my son became Emperor’ it’s time for revenge.’

            Zhen Huan was so worried when she heard Ling Rong got pregnant at first because that meant the Empress might had two princes in her palm. And if one of them became new Emperor, her fate was sealed. Thus with her plotting to get rid of Ling Ron’s baby and the third prince.

  • I’ve commented here once or twice but I’ve always came back to check on your LZH reviews 🙂 Thanks so much for the reading pleasure! I’ve watched this show on repeat many times, the funny thing is I went to China two years in a row and both times it was on repeat simultaneously on different channels, even on the same channel theres a different repeat timing for weekdays and weekends (like two sets of repeats; so that on weekdays maybe you’ve watched ep1-10, on the weekends it already airs up to ep20 etc). In conclusion I was just watching parts on random over and over again and it never gets old! I don’t really remember all the details now but it’s still nice to read your reviews. Thanks again!

    • Thanks for sticking around even though I took so long to finish my review! 😉 Lol that is pretty awesome that LZH was still reairing on the Chinese TV. 😀

  • Wow!!!! Good job Heisui…. Good and powerful reviews.. One thing I want to ask though… Is the Emperor really appointed Qian Long as his successor? Is that why he said that soon, everything will be yours? or what he meant is 8th prince? (ZH biological son. Did Qian Long become an Emperor because ZH wanted him to so that her son wouldn’t get any evil plans from the wife later on? Thank you…

    • Thanks Anne!! Umm I’m not quite sure actually, you might want to ask 0kuo0. I think that at first he was undecided on whether or not to make ZH’s biological son the successor but then ZH suggested that Qian Long take the throne instead of her son so the emperor agreed?

      • The true story (by Historian) is that Qian Long was a clear pick from the start. Even Kang Xi chooses 4th Prince because he favored Qian Long. 🙂
        But again, it’s nice to see from LZH point of view..

      • Been a while since I watched ZHZ but I think you’re more or less on the dot. I seem to remember a part in the last couple episodes where Zhen Huan was convincing the emperor to choose her adopted son over the one she actually gave birth to. Also, part of Zhen Huan’s final confrontation with the Empress was where the Empress was all in shock and like “OMG!! What a horrible mother you are!! You didn’t pass the throne to your biological son?!?” and Zhen Huan was all “Is being the emperor really the best thing for a person in this world?”

  • Reading this review really brings back my memories of watching LZH! Sun Li’s performance in this drama was amazing and I hope she gets the International Emmy Award. I also think ZH’s voice actress was wonderful, her voice complimented Sun Li’s performance perfectly (though I would love to hear Sun Li’s real voice too). It’s funny because after watching the entire 76 episodes and becoming familiar with her voice, I begin to hear ZH’s voices everywhere! The voice actress is very popular so a lot of dramas use her as the female’s lead’s voice (Schemes of a Beauty, The Return of the Condor Heroes, Swordsman, and the upcoming Hua Xu Yin) and when I hear them, I just can’t help but think of ZH!

    Anyways, I definitely think this is the best harem drama I have ever watched and it sets a new standard for this genre. Thank you for following and reviewing this drama for so long! 🙂

    If you are interested in watching another scheming type drama, check out The War of Beauties. It takes place in the pre-modern era (1920ish?) about a girl who marries into a big family as the fifth wife of the second son. I didn’t actually finish the drama yet, but I’ve caught some snippets when my family watches it. From the scenes I’ve seen, the schemes are pretty intelligent. The female lead also starts from an innocent girl and turned into a more vicious woman to protect herself. Unlike LZH though, the male lead (9th prince of BBJX) is hot and likable.

    • Oh yeah, the voice actress really did ZH’s role justice. At first I actually didn’t know that Sun Li’s voice was dubbed, that’s how good the voice actress is!! Ok, looked up the War of Beauties and wow I’m surprised I haven’t even heard of this drama! O__O

      Thanks for sticking with me, it has been great talking with you about LZH! 😀

    • Hold on– are you saying that the actress who plays Zhen Huan actually doesn’t voice Zhen Huan? But how does she keep the lip movements and the words in sync? And what about the other actresses, do they have voice actresses as well?(Although it makes sense in hindsight. Sometimes when the girls giggle or something, it doesn’t match the way their face moves.) And why do they have dubs in the first place? I am even more impressed with Sun Li’s and the rest of their performances. Through out all this drama, except for a few or so off moments, I didn’t realize their voices were dubbed. (Ling Rong is the exception. I was annoyed at the way she totally didn’t try to match her lip movements to the singing. Not believable at all.)

      • I KNOW RIGHT!?!? Yup, the voice that you hear for Zhen Huan is not Sun Li’s real voice. It is a voice actress!!!! It sounds so good that I really thought it was Sun Li’s real voice!

        Some of the other actresses’ real voices are used, such as Jiang Xin (Hua Fei) & Lan Xi (Mei Zhuang). Ling Rong, I’m not sure if her speaking was dubbed but obviously the singing was. Ada Choi (empress) was also dubbed the whole time because she has an accent.

        Dubbing is used because many people have different accents when speaking Mandarin. So the professional dubbers have the perfect accents and all. I’m not sure why Sun Li was dubbed because I heard she has very good pronunciation. But actually if you listen to Sun Li’s real voice and the voice actress, I think the voice actress suits Zhen Huan’s role very well.

        • hello heisui,
          think I can provide you the reason why Sun Li was dubbed because just after filming
          the drama, she found herself pregnant and having severe morning sickness so the
          production team feel its better to have her dubbed.

  • When I watched ZH and other ancient Chinese drama, I think that those concubines really didn’t have anything to do.

    They woke up in the morning, went to pay respect to the Empress/Empress Dowager and then returned to their palace to wait for the Emperor to visit them. If he ever had.

    During the day time, they spent the time with sewing clothes, making embroidery, visiting garden. That was all. The sum of their life in the palace. They also couldn’t get out from the palace to visit their family. It was dead boring. No wonder many resorted to suicide.

  • On top of the acting, script, and costumes, one thing which makes the drama exceptional is the amount of quotations from poems used in the dialogue. It makes the characters feel more ‘in sync’ with the period the story is set in, and shows contrast between the educated and non-educated. For example, after Zhen Huan returned to the palace and her twins had their motnh-old celebrations, there was a scene where Jin Xi showed Zhen Huan the gifts received for the children. Zhen Huan was not particularly interested in any item, except for this coral bracelet from the 17th Prince. There she muttered 2 lines from a poem, which no one (including me) understood. But I went to google and found that the lines were from a poem which talked about how the poet liked a coral item very much but can only look at it from afar as the owner of the item (an emperor) puts it up for all to see. She understood the 17th Prince’s message to her, and in many scenes between them, they quoted lines from poems. In contrast, Yu Yin couldn’t understand any of those dialogues at all, symbolising the disparity in education and also how she and the 17th Prince can never truly understand each other. I really love the use of poems and often find myself googling lines up for the full poem. Excellant writing by the author, who is a lecturer in Chinese literature.

    • I’m pretty sure all of the deeper poetic meanings were lost on me. T_T Thanks for explaining them! I am always amazed by all the little details. And you made a good point about the gap between Yu Yin & 17th. I didn’t think about it much but I think you are right….even though Yu Yin was given a higher status after she became 17th’s wife there is still a big difference in their upbringing/education.

  • Hi heisui,

    Just wanted to thank you for the recaps to this drama, I read all of them when I was in a extremely addicted phrase. You’re a legend 😉

  • I just returned from China. Visited Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Jingshan Park, Great Wall etc while I were in Beijing. And as expected, Zhen Huan was aired at BTV (Beijing TV). Still early episode where Hua Fei was in all of her glory.

    I visited Luoyang, Xi’an (Terracota Army and Huashan) and Beijing. I’m overseas Chinese so visiting there is an eye opener for me. The toilet though was an experience best forgotten if is it possible.

    • Ahaha the toilets are quite the experience, eh? 😛 It took a bit to get used to them..

      And yes, seeing the sights in real life is a great experience as well. It is amazing how huge the Forbidden City is. O__O

      • Yes! I was in awe stepping into the courtyard (?) behind the main entrance. I felt soooo small compared to the size of the structures and the space. Amazing place, but I guess I visited it in the wrong month because it was overcrowded and the visit was not as enjoyable as it could have been.

  • hi heisui..

    i wanted to say thank you for your awesome reviews on was definitely my favourite drama of all times since I am a big fan of Chinese period dramas especially involving the life in the palace..currently in my country one of the free channels is showing LZH..before this i watched LZH on a paid channel..therefore imagine how thrilled I am that i got the chance to watch LZH all over again..there is only 2 episodes left and I decided to read your review again on the last ep to get a clearer picture of the ep..:)..i would love to buy a complete set of LZH dvds if they sold it in stores to kept it as a collectible item..

    • Aw thank you! LZH is worth a rewatch. 😉 I’m pretty sure there is a LZH DVD set, either online or in the Chinese DVD stores. I doubt they would have subs though,

  • it would be great if they sold LZH dvds with eng sub..well one could only hope..hehe anyways i’m currently watching The World of Tang Women..have u watched it yet?..the costumes are not as elegant as LZH as the Tang Dynasty costumes are a bit different..but i find that the drama had lots of young casts..:)..but then again i only watched 3 episodes so far..

      • yup it was last year’s production..anne liu plays the role of the heroine’s younger sister..quite an innocent & naive character i must say..both the sisters are maids in the far the drama is quite okay..but we see how it goes when the conflict starts to arise..hehe..:)

          • the heroine is also super innocent..maybe later on there will be some sibling rivalry?..but right now the story focuses more on the conflict in the palace for the rightful heir to the throne..however this is the first time i watched a palace drama with a female as the emperor and she even have male it common or just for the drama?

            • I haven’t ever heard of the empress (I guess she might be acting as the regent for the emperor? If she has a son that’s too young to become emperor?) having male consorts. O_O There’s a fictional jdrama (Ooku) about a female shogun with male concubines but I haven’t ever heard of a cdrama with that same scenario.

  • i know rite..the subs said that they are male consorts plus they act all lovey dovey with the far there’s only 3 male consorts and 2 of them is her favourite and they are brothers..O.o..well i guess anything is possible now in cdrama..haha..yeah maybe she is the regent for the emperor despite all her sons are already grown up and there is already a crown prince appointed but i guess she’s still indecisive to whom she will give the throne to as they are all very scheming and untrustworthy..

  • Omg, I am so late on this drama’s bandwagon. I was totally hooked on this drama since the first episode, and I watched the whole drama in just a couple of weeks. The acting, costumes, soundtrack, storyline.. omg it was all amazing <3_<3 It was 76 episodes of goodness. I especially loved ZH and Hua Fei's actors, they were amazing. Ahhh, I'm so glad I found this drama and your blog, I love finishing a couple of episodes and coming back to your blog to read the reviews :P. You have done such a good job reviewing the whole drama! hehehe

  • I recently finished the series, and I have a more optimistic take on the ending than some.

    First, she fulfilled her over-riding goal of protecting her family and clearing their name for the long term. In fact, the last scene was her final act toward accomplishing that objective, with the transfer of her son (6th Prince) to 17th bloodline. This would serve to protect his life in the future.

    I see the last scenes as a movement toward a kind of contentment, self-actualization, and inner peace — a result of a 20-year (17 to 37) journey of patience and determination. The dream sequence at the end allows her to (metaphorically) rest from the tiredness brought on by this journey and revisit cherished memories of loved ones who have passed.

    Again, the whole reason for re-entering the palace was to protect and uplift the condition of her family, and she succeeded gloriously in that goal (with exceptions beyond her control, such as the death of her half-sister). This goal even trumped her desire to reunite with 17th Prince. She saw the “big picture” — all the lives close to her which were at stake. Weighing her relationship with 17th and everyone else, she had to choose her family, though it was never an easy choice.

    Regarding her future life after episode 76, I see her as much more hands-on than the previous Dowager. After all, she’s starting her position at a much younger age than the previous one. Her son is also 10-15 years younger than the previous Emperor when he began his rule. It’s obvious that she mentored the current Emperor (4th Prince) to be the ruler he is today. I see a back and forth dialog between the two happening on a much more frequent basis. Basically, their relationship is much closer than the previous Emperor and Dowager.

    The scene with her sisters prior to this one also shows a palace with kinship and friendship — hardly a lonely environment. Her top position may superficially isolate her via its high-profile nature, but she’s maintained a supporting network of friends and confidants. She can turn to them in more difficult times and celebrate with them in times of success and triumph. The previous Dowager didn’t seem to have had a group such as this — in contrast, she was almost continually ill and often isolated, accept from the “obligatory” visits from family and the genuine friendship of Shen Mei.

    I may have more thoughts on this series in the future, but I just had to get these off my chest. It’s been a couple days since I finished the series, yet I still frequently ponder its many layers and complexities. Bravo to all those involved, and I hope a group picks up “The Legend of Mi Yue” on Viki or elsewhere!

    • I know my view of the ending is so pessimistic. X_X So it’s good to hear your optimistic perspective to balance out my pessimistic one hehe. I totally agree about her protecting her family. Not all that she did was in vain…since she was able to protect her parents/17th’s child & she ensured that her sister had a happy marriage. She also added Huan Bi to her family registry..although Huan Bi’s ending wasn’t a happy one.

      Hmm I think it is still sad that Zhen Huan lost so many people along the way. She started out with Huan Bi, Liu Zhu and Mei Zhuang….and none of them survived with her ’til the end. Duan Fei & Jing Fei are trustworthy friends but probably don’t match up to the childhood bonds that Zhen Huan had with Huan Bi, etc.

      • Actually, instead of “self-actualization” I might describe her emotional state at the end of the series as “resigned satisfaction” or “satisfaction with caveats.” She doesn’t seem to be the type of person to be completely and utterly satisfied — she’s always striving to improve her own condition as well as that of those close to her.

        Yes, the losses along the way were huge. By this point in her life, most of them had occurred years in the past. It seems that she’s become more-or-less immune to the emotional ups-and-downs that she experienced back when these tragedies were actually taking place. In a previous episode she said something to the effect of, “I don’t have time now to be sad or grieving. I’m too busy with the day-to-day concerns of my position.” In the final scenes we see that she can look forward in times of wakeful striving and look backward in times of inner contemplation, leading to the level-headed and poised disposition on display in the final scenes.

        I just find her entire arc fascinating. I sound like a broken record here, but nearly all her actions seemed to stem from her desire to protect her family. It was one of the main themes of the series. For example, she started as a bright yet timid girl who chose to fake illness by slowly poisoning herself; she hoped to stay hidden away and out of the spotlight by doing so. She predicted, rightfully so, that entering the spotlight by gaining favor would put her family at risk. When she finally did gain favor, her family became a target, just as she’d feared. Thus, character traits such as cleverness and tenacity grew in order to meet each challenge as it arose. When all hope seemed to be lost she would reach a breaking point which re-galvanized her commitment, again, to protect and nurture her family — using all she had learned up till then to accomplish that task.

        Regarding the death of the Emperor: In the context of this series and the time and place its set in, she likely saw it as form of self defense — for herself and her family (especially her biological son). She may have also seen it as justice for countless crimes — and the assassination of a petty, vindictive, megalomanical tyrant who saw himself as a god who could do no wrong. Back then, there were no checks and balances as we know them today. It was either overthrow the despot by force or assassinate him through stealth.

        It seems that, after the death of 17th, she walked out the door with a look in her eyes which said: “I’m bringing down the Emperor!” Yet she didn’t accomplish this for quite a few years afterward. One could say she was waiting for her son (4th Prince) to be fully ready to take his place. In addition, she was also waiting for a fail-safe, undetectable method — which Ning discovered and began pursuing. Did this method cause physical pain and agony? It’s hard to say for sure. During the death scene, the Emperor’s contorted facial expressions may have been expressing emotional or psychological anguish, as Zhen Huan’s revelations were coming thick and fast. He was realizing that he’d been deceived in numerous ways, and there was nothing he could do about it anymore.

        What’s really tragic about the Emperor is that he had glimmers of goodness from time to time, such as allowing the marriage of Su Pei Sheng and Jin Xi, but jealousy and vindictiveness won out in the end by a wide margin. I noticed that Zhen Huan at least tried to change and mold him into a better, kinder person. Yet when he realized that Zhen Haun was having an affair with 17th Prince, these efforts were basically wasted as he reverted into a jealous tyrant who slowly became more distant from her as time went on.

        • Some additional musings: I stated this indirectly before, but after the death of 17th Prince, Zhen Huan likely came to the realization that she needed to become Empress Dowager in order to fully protect her family. Anything less would have been insufficient in comparison. It was the logical conclusion of all those years of calculating and striving — and the only way to ensure their well-being in the long term. The death of the current Emperor would, of course, facilitate her movement into that position. I find it daring that the production company chose to include Zhen Huan in her Dowager clothing and makeup in the promotional artwork for the series. All the way through, it kept you guessing how she would finally arrive at that position.

          Also: I don’t want to be simplistic in the way I’m describing the Emperor. He was, after all, loving to his own children (when they didn’t offend him) and even generous in the past when in a celebratory mood. At this point, however, he stood in the way of Zhen Huan’s long-term safety. It is interesting how gracious and loving he seemed to be when claiming to be the 17th Prince, back when his relationship with Zhen Huan first began. It’s almost as if assuming the relative humility of the 17th Prince’s status made him into a kinder, more loving person. Zhen Huan originally grew to love the Emperor in his false identity as the 17th Prince. As soon as he was revealed to be the Emperor, however, their relationship seemed to be less-than-ideal — more calculating, distant, and volatile.

          I also don’t want to gloss over Zhen Huan’s love of the (real) 17th Prince. During the Emperor’s death scene she did refer to her cut-short relationship with the Prince as something she was deprived of in her life — though one could say that, in the beginning, she gave up that relationship voluntarily. To make matters worse, the Emperor denied her the possibility of any type of relationship with 17th Prince in the future.

          In the same scene, the Emperor states that he “got everything he ever wanted” during his life. Yet these things were often objects he claimed ownership of. His relationship with Zhen Huan exemplified this. It was not a mutually reciprocated relationship built upon trust and love; rather, it was a relationship built (in the end) upon fear, jealousy, deception, and manipulation. The Emperor probably realized at the end that relationships based on ownership and power are usually tenuous and insubstantial. In the end he saw the objects and people he “owned” slipping away.

          Now despite my more “optimistic” take on the ending, it did leave me in a wistful, reflective mood. It may not have been the most desired ending for Zhen Huan, but it was probably the most necessary ending for everyone still involved. A more conventional drama would have probably found a way to remove the Emperor and place 17th Prince on the throne with Zhen Huan as Empress. Would it have been realistic or true to the tone set by the series? Probably not.

          Like you, heisui, I’ve found it hard to stop talking or thinking about this drama. I think that truly makes it one of the greatest ever made. I also want to thank you for introducing me to the series in the first place. I had enjoyed Ariel Lin’s performance in “In Time With You,” and I was looking for reviews of “Lan Ling Wang.” There in the comments section of the final episode review, you mentioned “Zhen Huan Zhuan” as your favorite c-drama, and that’s where my journey with this series started. So thanks again! 🙂

          • Thanks for sharing your thoughts on LZH, I really enjoy reading them! And I’m so glad you took up my recommendation on watching LZH. I will never stop recommending it to people, bwahahaha.

            The similarity between the emperor & ZH is that they both took extreme measures to protect their position. Eh I never thought 17th would take the throne in LZH, but in a typical period cdrama that might’ve happened. =_= Even conventional period cdramas can be quite tragic though, so who knows.

            About the emperor’s relationships as ‘ownership’…I think he probably wasn’t like that when he was in love with Empress Chun Yuan. Granted we don’t really know how he was with her, but it sounds like she was the only one he loved & trusted unconditionally. His relationships with the 2nd empress & the concubines were more of a give-and-take kind of thing. In a lot of cases it was an unequal give-and-take..but the emperor still had significant losses i.e. the empress secretly killing off his unborn children.. Anyways, by the ending I just felt bad for the emperor because he couldn’t trust anyone and was paranoid ’til the end. Apparently he wasn’t paranoid enough because he never saw Ning Pin’s betrayal coming, nor did he suspect Mei Zhuang’s relationship with Dr. Wen.

      • I am late to the party but I absolutely love this drama. I watched the consolidated US version and thought that was great but felt like bits and pieces were missing. Little things in the edited version didn’t make sense until I watched the full 76 episode version, and I got my answers.

        I share the same pessimistic sentiment. It was bittersweet ending. She achieved her goals, but she lost so many on the road to Victory, but it didn’t make her happy. The love of her life died right in front of her, her only true friend died.. It was a long battle, and in the end she was weary.

      • What I find super interesting is how her relationship with the 17th was obvious from the get go. I do recall a scene in which she discusses the 17th with Huanbi or Liu Zhu, and she’s pretty much crushing him on reputation alone. Also, when the Emperor pretends to be him, she’s more open to talking to fake-17th more. So, you could say that she was already in love with the idea of the 17th Prince to begin with.

  • Interesting. The Emperor’s relationship with Chun Yuan began before he became Emperor. Perhaps the power of the emperorship obscured his ability to truly start over again after Chun Yuan’s death. Also, his nearly-blind loyalty to her sister led to years of trouble in the harem (of course, Chun Yuan’s final words of kindness toward her sister didn’t help matters).

    The Emperor, with the power and resources available to him, seemed to chase after that original, “idealized” relationship through his concubines — especially Zhen Huan. Even ZH’s biological sisters were “targeted” because of their similarity to Chun Yuan. As I think about it more, I do see the Emperor as a tragic figure, for he was never able to move beyond Chun Yuan’s death. That character flaw, or inability to let go of the past, fueled the entire narrative arc of the show, for if Zhen Huan didn’t have a resemblance to Chun Yuan, she might have never been chosen by the Emperor in the first place.

    It could be said that his relationship with Zhen Huan, upon returning to the palace, “seemed” to be deeper and more genuine than when she left. When they first met at the convent she asked again if he truly loved her — whether she was simply a replacement for Chun Yuan. At the time the Emperor avoided the question by saying something to the effect of, “That’s all in the past now,” etc. That said, he did go to great lengths to bring her back to the palace with fanfare and a boosted status, much to the chagrin of the Empress and her minions. Regardless, at this point, ZH was simply using the Emperor’s affection as a stepping stone toward accomplishing larger goals.

    It’s hard to a recall a drama when I felt such a sense of triumph when the main character triumphed (as in ZH’s return to the palace after years of abuse and exile). Similarly, I’ve never felt such a sense of injustice in a drama (as with the miscarriage occurring under Hua Fei’s watch). Sun Li’s performance when she learned of her child’s miscarriage was heart-wrenching. The Emperor’s anger toward Hua Fei in that scene was supremely satisfying, as was seeing her grovel in her simple clothes and lack of makeup.

    And yet Hua Fei’s suicide scene turned the tables, as it was no longer satisfying to see her life end. Rather, it became tragic. At this point she discovered all the injustice and deception which had been inflicted upon her — for no other reason than having a particular family name. She loved the Emperor as her husband; he was her “one and only,” and being unfaithful would have been inconceivable for her. Upon realizing that she’d been involuntarily sterilized by the one she loved in a cynical political ploy, she fell into despair. It was hard not to feel this despair along with her, for she had obsessed for years about having a child with the Emperor. Additionally, she saw his long-term love and favor for her hinging on having his child.

    On a brighter note, Zhen Huan’s transformation during the Dr. Wen “trial” arc was riveting and satisfying to watch. She went from being nearly condemned by the Emperor to being given the authority to decide the fate of her accusers. ZH’s actions and manipulations during the trial were entertaining, logical, and left you on the edge of your seat. Though, as is usual with this series, the sense of triumph was kept in check by Dr. Wen’s after-trial actions and Mei Zhuang’s death. Nevertheless, ZH left that trial in an even stronger position with the Emperor. At the same time, the trial backfired for the Empress, leaving her weak and vulnerable and paving the way for her final downfall.

    As I look back on it, it seems that every major antagonist in the drama — whether Hua Fei, the Empress, or the Emperor — had some injustice inflicted upon them which caused them to do the things they did. They had clear motivation in almost every case. I can’t condone their actions; rather, I can follow the threads of logic and emotion which led them to take their actions. And that’s what makes them interesting, well-rounded characters — as well as tragic figures that you can feel for (in some instances).

    • Hmm good point about how every triumph is sorta ‘balanced out’ with a loss. As for Dr. Wen, I always felt sorta ambivalent about him. I felt like most of the male characters (i.e. 17th prince, Dr. Wen) didn’t have as strong of a screen presence as the female characters. But now that I think about it, ZH is lucky to have had Dr. Wen on her side all those years. He was one of her best allies and gave her an advantage over the other concubines.

      The emperor’s inability to let go of the past contributed to his downfall. Even on his deathbed he was recalling the ‘good ol’ days’ with ZH, unable to let go of the rosy ideal of how they used to be. When he brought her back into the harem, he probably knew that things wouldn’t totally be the same..and obviously once he started getting suspicious of her & 17th, he was quite conscious of the rift in their relationship. But a part of him probably thought he could keep it under control and restore things back to the way they were. Obviously that didn’t work out because instead ZH struck back.

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