The Hairstyles of Legend of Zhen Huan: Empress

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Legend of Zhen Huan (Empresses in the Palace) fans, are you still with me? 😛 Yes, I am still carrying on with my Hairstyles of Legend of Zhen Huan series. For this post, I’m featuring the Empress’ (Ada Choi) hairstyles.

The Empress actually does not wear that many hairstyles throughout the drama. But, her styling represents her persona and her position very well. First of all, the Empress has the persona of being “the mother of the nation” and the responsible leader of the harem. She sets an example by not being too extravagant in her dress and being thriftier with her money. Also, her more conservative style demonstrates that she does not have to “outdo” other concubines because she is secure in her position and has no jealousy. She is supposed to be stable, calm, and gracious and acts as such. (Though we all know what her true personality is…) So, she does not have to constantly enhance her beauty to attract the emperor or to compete with other concubines. This contrasts directly with Ling Rong and Zhen Huan, who get fancier hairstyles the more they move up in rank and vie for the emperor’s favor. Ling Rong uses her beauty as her asset, so she accessorizes a lot and has many beautiful hairstyles. Zhen Huan makes a statement with many of her hairstyles (especially after she returns to the palace) to show her status.

Another difference between the Empress and the other concubines is that her hairstyles represent her more pragmatic role. She is there to lead the harem and support the emperor, not to be an entertaining young beauty. (Which is what some many of the concubines were, sadly.) Like the other veterans in the inner palace, she wears darker colors and is not too flashy. The Empress has her status and her seniority; she has no need to compete with the younger concubines’ looks or keep up with all the latest trends.

However, as we all know, the Empress’ outer persona is not really her true personality. On the outside she presents herself as everything an Empress is supposed to be, but on the inside she is scheming, insecure, and power-hungry.  So there is a kind of disconnect between how she seems and how she really is.


When she wore it:

Starting from Episode 1.  This is the first hairstyle we see her wearing in the drama.


This hairstyle plays a significant role in my first impression of the Empress.  It really seems like the kind of thing that the mother of the nation would wear.  It reminds me of a sunrise with all of the gold detailing and the extended accessories on the right and left sides.  Looking at the Empress for the first time, I’d seriously believe that she is a benevolent and calm leader.

At the moment I can’t think of any other characters who wore so much gold and pearls.  The pearls are a really beautiful touch.  You may also notice that the Empress wears flower pins on the left side, behind her ear.  It balances out the hairstyle’s 2 gold pins on the right side.  The style is also very symmetrical, again symbolizing her balance and stability as the Empress.


When she wore it:

Starting from somewhere around episode 14-17.


This is the Empress’ second most common dian zi.  In comparison to the first one, it has a sharper look.  The gold is a bit duller and the design as a whole is totally symmetrical.  Also, the front of the dian zi actually goes on the Empress’ forehead, whereas the first one did not.  Instead of parting her hair in the middle, she drapes some hair underneath the front of her headpiece.  This hairstyle’s flower pins (on the back, sorta behind her ears) are also much more noticeable than in the first style.


Another nice detail in this hairstyle is the back, which is adorned with flower decorations.

For me, the most memorable scene with this hairstyle is the Emperor and Empress’ last scene together.  The Emperor confronts the Empress about the truth behind Empress Chen Yuan’s death.  It is definitely one of the highlight scenes for the Empress.  I gotta say, I love her outfit in this scene.  She wears a beautiful deep red and burgundy colored robe–seriously, I wish she had worn it sooner!


When she wore it:

Starting from somewhere around episode 11-13.


The Empress only wears this hairstyle very rarely.  It is somewhat uncommon for her to wear purple, but the purple accents are really what make the hairstyle eye-catching.  She occasionally wears the style along with a flower hair pin (see bottom left picture), which you can also see her wearing with some of her other headpieces.  She also sometimes wears it with a golden and pearl accessory at the base of the headpiece (see bottom right and left pictures).

The most memorable scene she wears this in is when she and the Emperor stumble across Ling Rong’s beautiful singing.  The Empress graciously suggests that they invite Ling Rong to sing for them some more, since the Emperor liked it so much.


When she wore it:

No idea.


This is another very rare hairstyle, so much so that I’m not sure when the Empress first wore it!  I believe this is the headpiece that adds the most height to the Empress.  My favorite parts of this style are the golden “dots”–a nice little touch–and the red and gold accessory that adds some asymmetry to the piece.


When she wore it:

Episode 76, in her final scene.


This is the final hairpiece that the Empress wears in episode 76.  This hairstyle is associated with her last scene, the Empress tries to defend her position as the true empress against Zhen Huan, who has newly become the Empress Dowager.  The Empress is no longer wearing a lot of gold–instead she wears silver hair pins.  She is also wearing a lot of blue for the first time–and now shows her greying hair.

Is there a point to the Empress having one last hairstyle for only one scene?  I think the main significance is that she’s no longer wearing gold or the dian zi she used to wear as the Empress.  She knows she has been cast aside.  But, she still wears a dian zi, thus showing her rank even though no one visits her.  The Empress still tries to maintain her belief in her status, (sorta) dressing as such, but it seems a part of her still knows that it’s all a facade.

Which hairstyle is your favorite?  What other characters’ hairstyles are you looking forward to seeing?

More from The Hairstyles of Legend of Zhen Huan:


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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  • I can’t really decide a favorite… though I do feel that color was used to make statements about status such as gold… and the Empress eventually wearing more black near the end to emphasize her fall…

  • Your Legend of Zhen Huan fans will always be here with you! 🙂 I like the second most common one the best. Such a refreshing change compared to the usual centre parting. Never noticed that the Empress never had any side partings so that’s interesting. I love your posts and whoever you decide to feature next, I’m sure I’ll love it 😀 Thanks!

  • After 3 viewings of ZH I still haven’t ever looked in detail at the headpieces or costumes. I’m always busy looking at the faces & reading subtitles. So this is really interesting. Thanks.

  • Wow.. great post… It’s obvious that your a Legend of Zhen Huan obsessed…
    Chinese royalty hair pin really played a significant role to determine someone’s status..
    I heard that they use real gold and everything….
    As for this post, my favorite is the second one… ::)

  • Hi!

    I have just noticed that you wrote a piece about the Empress’ hairstyle. Like this post. Write about ZH’s hair style part II please.

    Oh, and I like the burgundy dress too. The costume designer in ZH really know how to colour coordinated clothes. Always so pretty and elegant.

  • I find Ada Choi so beautiful everytime Hua Fei called her character “old and ugly” I thought -Whaaat.
    I sort of like the Empress too because if I had a sister who simply stole my husband during my pregnancy,damn I’d want to put the grintch to sleep too (but would probably lack the Empress skills to do so)

    • Oh no I’m sorry that happened to you. 🙁 I think it is generally hard for people to sympathize with the Empress if they haven’t had a similar experience. The story assumes that Empress Chun Yuan was totally innocent and did no wrong, but who knows. I guess that’s a side of the story that we’ll never know for sure.

      • In my opinion, the Emperor revered Chun Yuan because she died young that she became immortalized forever. She stayed beautiful and young in his mind. She didn’t grow old and become boring. And since their marriage was only in the first few years before she died, they were still in honeymoon phase. Everything she did will look perfect in his eyes. Imagine if twenty years had passed…

        I actually accept the empress’ reasoning more than Hua Fei. In the story, she married the man she loved and he promised to love her. And then she got pregnant and her sister was called to help her. What happened the next was the husband and her sister fell in love. He married the sister and made her his primary wife. It’s like an act of double betrayal. And as in most cases, wife will put the blame on the other woman.

  • Call me crazy but while looking back at these little details from the drama, I cannot help but to notice how the Empress’ accessories and hairstyle at the very end of the series somewhat resembled Zhen Huan’s hairstyle around Episode 53 while Zhen Huan’s hairstyle around Episode 60 resembled the Empress’ in the first episode, in a way depicting the power shift between the two of them now that the Empress has lost her power and Zhen Huan, in turn, rose to the top.

  • For me, the first hairstyle the empress wore represents her Fake self. As we all know the empress is two-faced and that hairstyle is only fitting to her pretentious face. The 2nd one was when her her true identity is already exposed.

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