Finally a Chinese drama where the female lead is a mature/veteran actress who isn’t playing the part of a teenager. In ongoing “Palace of Devotion”, Liu Tao (who I last saw years ago in “Nirvana on Fire”) is paired with another very experienced actor Vic Chou who plays an emperor in the Song Dynasty. Liu Tao is Liu E who was a refugee when she rescued 3rd Prince, Zhao Heng. Zhao Heng was injured in battle and she nursed him back to health. They fell in love during his recuperation and she followed him back to the palace.
Zhao Heng’s father has 2 other sons, 1st and 2nd Prince and they are all vying to become Crown Prince. Zhao Heng already has a wife and although he pleads with the Emperor to allow him to take Liu E as his concubine but the emperor refuses as he thinks she is a jinx. Liu E doesn’t want to cause problems for Zhao Heng and leaves him while he is away to solve flood problems. While she is wandering around, she discovers she is pregnant.
It’s quite refreshing to watch a lead actress in a Chinese drama who isn’t playing a teenage character and who isn’t 20-something in real life as so many leads in Chinese dramas are now. Liu Tao is very beautiful and fits this role so well, she is intelligent and resourceful. She and Zhao Heng meet again when the village she is brought to by 2nd Prince’s soldiers is burned down and Zhao Heng rescues her. Meanwhile, Zhao Heng is framed by the 2nd Prince who blames him for setting fire to the village as he wanted to get rid of the infected who were quarantined there.
The emperor isn’t stupid as he set a trap for the 2nd Prince & he fell into it leading 2nd Prince no way out but to commit suicide. The 1st Prince is a bumbling idiot who is having an affair with the young empress and he becomes insane when the emperor catches the couple alone in the empress’ quarters (wonder what happened to her trustworthy maid who should have sounded the alarm).
Not long after, the ailing emperor dies and the empress’ planned coup fails. Zhao Heng is crowned emperor and wants to promote his beloved Liu E to the highest status concubine but is advised against doing so by the courtiers as the previous emperor was against her being conferred a concubine, let alone Noble Concubine.
The Song kingdom is always at war with the Liaos up north. The Liao Dowager Queen proposes they exchange princes as hostages for 3 years. If nothing goes wrong in 3 years, they will agree to an everlasting peace, no more waging war. As the Empress has previously lost her firstborn son and there’s no way the Emperor can persuade her to part with her second son as hostage, he has to take Liu E’s son who is about 7 years old. Don’t know how they do the casting though as the Empress’ second son who was born after Liu E’s son looks taller and bigger than Liu E’s Ji’er.
The Liaos send their 5th Prince, Kang’er who will be under the care and guidance of Liu E, this is at the request of the Liao Dowager Queen. At first Kang’er is rebellious and causes trouble for Liu E but he gradually comes to accept and respect her as she shows him much affection and care as a mother would to her son. Zhao Heng loves Liu E a lot at the expense of neglecting the Empress and his concubine. However, he is not accepting of Liu E giving him advise on politics as she thinks the harem shouldn’t get involved in politics.
So far I have watched ten episode, a lot of the scenes are of the courtiers discussing the nation’s problems with the emperor at court. They always seem to be at war with someone or other and Zhao Heng is forever asking his courtier who will step up to the plate and lead the army to war. It’s surprising that the Songs don’t have an able general otherwise Zhao Heng won’t keep asking who will take the lead and face the enemy.
It will be interesting to watch what other political advise Liu E gives the Emperor, he is beginning to accept her opinions. It looks like Liu E will be a more capable politician than all the other Song courtiers combined. Zhao Heng should just appoint her as his Prime Minister since all the old PMs he has worked with seem to have acute health problems. Good drama thanks to Vic Chou and Liu Tao.