Hi everyone! Ruyi’s Royal Love in the Palace 如懿传, the Qing Dynasty drama about the love story between the Qianlong Emperor and his second Empress, Ulanara, has finally ended. When I first started watching, I thought it was moving a bit too slowly, but I’m really glad I stuck with it because the drama ended up being fantastic (in my opinion, it is the best drama of the year). The entire cast, led by Zhou Xun and Wallace Huo, did a great job in their roles, and the hard work and effort the whole cast and crew put into every aspect of the drama really shines though. The production value is excellent, from the costumes and hairpieces to the decorations in every setting. Overall, the drama was very well done, very well executed.
By the final episode, Qianlong knew how badly he misjudged and mistreated Ruyi, but it’s already too late. With everything she suffered, Ruyi has lost all the love and trust she used to have for him, leaving Qianlong to look back with regrets up until his death. Even though there was no happily ever after, the final episode did a good job of bringing everything to a proper conclusion.
On to the recap….
The final episode begins with Qianlong departing the palace on one of his trips, taking with him a large entourage consisting of consorts, servants, and other palace staff. With so many people gone and the palace now much more peaceful, Ruyi finally ventures out from her residence, Yikun Palace, the place where she was kept in confinement until Qianlong realizes that she was innocent.
Even after her confinement ended, she was not willing to see any visitors nor leave her palace. She visits a place she found a long time ago which overlooks the entire palace grounds to take one last long look at the place where she spent most of her life. The place holds many memories for Ruyi and Qianlong, as it’s where they used to play together as children, and where Qianlong made promises of love to her.
That evening, Ruyi sits in the courtyard of her palace residence. She tells her attendant, Rong Pei, to sit down and join her for a cup of tea. When Rong Pei protests that this goes against the rules, Ruyi tells her not to worry about formalities, that by this point, she and Ruyi have been together for so many years. Rong Pei tells Ruyi that getting to serve her has been a blessing in her life. In turn, Ruyi responds that having Rong Pei has also been a blessing. Such a great relationship from these two.
Ruyi tells Rong Pei that she has been reminiscing about past memories – meeting Hongli for the first time, watching a play, one that would become one of their favorites, and when Hongli told her that he wanted them to be together. Hongli would always say her favorite words, not to worry. Years later, Qianlong told her that he was lonely and wanted her by his side as his Empress. Even though Ruyi never cared and was never interested in becoming the Empress, when Qianlong said those words, she couldn’t help but agree. After all, only the Empress is considered the Emperor’s wife – everyone else is considered a concubine.
She says she’s been thinking about all the people that they’ve lost over the years – first her aunt, and then Qianlong’s other consorts who passed away one at a time because of the endless scheming. She says that all the fighting and backstabbing within the inner court takes so many lives, and it’s not worth it in the end. She wistfully imagines how great it would be if her son and daughter had been able to grow up, and the princes she took care of – Yonghuang and Yong Qi – were still alive. She wonders if all the infighting had not happened, how would everyone look? Would they all be sitting together drinking tea and chatting – even with the Emperor. Rong Pei thinks Ruyi never stopped missing or thinking about Qianlong, but Ruyi corrects her. To her, everything seems like it only happened yesterday, but also like nothing ever happened. She doesn’t much miss or think about the Emperor.
Ruyi and Rong Pei share a cup of tea before Ruyi asks for Rong Pei to bring some more fresh tea. After Rong Pei leaves, Ruyi takes a look at her green plum blossom tree. The tree had been a gift from Qianlong many years ago when he first became Emperor. Unfortunately, the tree didn’t survive long. Ruyi tried for years to revive it, but never succeeded. When Rong Pei returns, Ruyi has already passed away. Sitting next to her is a letter to her son, Yong Ji.
Far away on his trip, an attendant informs Qianlong that Ruyi has passed away. He is told that Ruyi died peacefully from illness and that Rong Pei has also taken her own life to follow her master in death. Towards the end of her life, she had stopped taking any medicine. When a consort begins criticizing Ruyi, Qianlong yells at her to get out immediately, even if something were going on between him and Ruyi, it’s not anyone’s place to comment. When his attendant asked about Ruyi’s funeral arrangements, Qianlong yells at him and order everyone else to get out. He collapses back onto his bed and stares at the ceiling, thinking to himself, “Ruyi, why didn’t you tell me? Why did you stop taking medicine? You were fine when I left.”
Back in the palace, Qianlong’s other consorts and concubines pay their respects to Ruyi. When the consorts commiserate over Ruyi’s death, Han Xiang (Consort Rong) says that there is nothing to be sad about. Ruyi has left to be with her childhood sweetheart. I feel so bad for Hailan (Consort Yu) – first she lost her son Yong Qi, and now Ruyi, her best friend and sister, has left as well.
As his consorts and concubines were paying their respects, Qianlong walks towards Yikun Palace. When he arrives, he hesitates before entering. There, he meets Yong Ji, his only remaining child with Ruyi. Yong Ji asks Qianlong if he has come to see Ruyi, and then asks if his mother is now truly free.
He gives Qianlong the letter that Ruyi wrote him, in which Ruyi tells her son not to be sad. Dying was a way for her to leave everything behind and to be free. Ruyi’s two wishes for Yong Ji are for him to live well and to live freely, to not do anything he doesn’t want to do. After Qianlong finishes reading the letter, he gives it back to Yong Ji, and tells him to hold on to it, as it was written by his mother. Qianlong decides against entering Ruyi’s palace and turns away.
Qianlong stares at Ruyi’s green plum blossom tree and the one painting of them together as Emperor and Empress. In a tone of finality, Ruyi had cut out her own portrait from the painting and burned it. His attendant informs Qianlong that the day she passed away, Ruyi visited the terrace overlooking the palace, and died peacefully while drinking tea with Rong Pei that evening.
Qianlong goes to see the palace painter to ask him to restore the painting of him and Ruyi together as Emperor and Empress. He wants it to be an exact replica of how the painting was before. The painter apologizes, and tells Qianlong that it is an impossible task to paint the same painting. When he painted it the first time, Qianlong and Ruyi had been very much in love. He explains that Qianlong had instinctively reached for her hand at the time, and that emotion was reflected in the painting. Even if he wanted to, he wouldn’t be able to paint the same painting again.
Hearing these words, Qianlong heads to the same terrace Ruyi visited on the day she died. It was where he and Ruyi had played together since they were kids, and where he had told Ruyi that he wanted them to be together. As he overlooks the palace, he recalls the beautiful memories that he and Ruyi had. The last time he and Ruyi had met, Ruyi told him that their time has passed and that they can no longer return to the past. Qianlong can’t help crying.
Afterwards, he decrees that Ruyi should not be given the usual funeral ceremonies of a deceased Empress. Her death was reported without using the usual terminology befitting of an Empress. He also orders that Ruyi be removed from historical records paintings of her be destroyed as well.
Upon hearing the news, the Dowager Empress goes to see Qianlong to ask him what his intentions are as everyone had been talking and wondering about his recent actions. Qianlong not only altered Ruyi’s funeral ceremonies but he interred her in the same tomb as Imperial Noble Consort Chun. She asks Qianlong if he truly intends to depose the Empress.
Qianlong says that years ago, Dowager didn’t even want Ruyi as the Empress and yet she has become the one who does not want Ruyi to be deposed as the Empress. This time however, it is Ruyi who isn’t willing to be his Empress anymore. She committed a serious offence by cutting her hair and wasn’t willing to take medicine when she was ill. She even ruined the only painting of them together.
Qianlong says that Ruyi went against him on multiple occasions, that if everyone were like her, he wouldn’t be able to look after his people or the palace. He says that it was the Dowager Empress who told him that Ruyi never cared about power, position, or glory. Since she doesn’t care about those things, why should he force them on her. Perhaps she wasn’t meant to live in the palace.
The Dowager Empress finally understands Qianlong’s intention to give Ruyi her freedom. As she leaves, the Dowager Empress looks at the drawing Qianlong has been working on and sees that he has been designing a palace of plum blossoms. Plum blossoms, especially green ones, had been Ruyi’s favorite flower. The Dowager Empress tells Qianlong, “What takes the most effort to eliminate, is what is hardest to face. What you want to forget most, is hardest to forget.”
Nine years later, Qianlong sits in the palace of plum blossoms he designed, surrounded by plum blossom trees. Ruyi’s green plum blossom tree sits right in front of him, still showing no signs of coming back to life. Qianlong has not left the room for some time. At this time, Qianlong’s attendant enters to say that the Dowager Empress is seeking his audience.
Over the years, Fifteenth Prince, Yong Yan, has become the best candidate to be Qianlong’s successor. Now that Yong Yan has grown up, and the Seventh and Ninth Princesses have married, it does not look well for him to have a birth mother like Imperial Consort Ling. It’s time for things to come to an end. Qianlong agrees and decides that it’s time.
It turns out that for all these years, Consort Ling has been imprisoned in her palace and she has aged significantly – almost all her hair has turned white. When her servants deliver her a bowl of soup, a soup that has been delivered daily to inflict hallucinations, she consumes it eagerly only to realize that something is wrong.
She learns that it isn’t soup but poison delivered to her under Qianlong’s orders. She dies a slow and painful death – which I think she completely deserves after all the evil deeds she committed. I still can’t stand her for being the one responsible for the deaths of Ruyi’s son, daughter and also Yong Qi.
Qianlong formally appoints Yong Yan to be his successor. He wonders out loud to his attendant if his father had felt the same way when appointing his successor. Li Yu tells him that just like Yongzheng, he is appointing a new Emperor who will look after the world. Qianlong just says that after all these years, when it comes to his relationships with his consorts and with his children, he has lost the majority of them.
More years have passed and Qianlong has retired and passed the throne to Yong Yan (Jiaqing Emperor). In the fourth year of Jiaqing’s reign, Qianlong opens a box that he has stored in the palace of plum blossoms. We see that it contains two treasured items – the handkerchief that Ruyi had embroidered for him when Qianlong first became Emperor, and the lock of hair she had cut when she “divorced” Qianlong. That was a great moment – one of my favorite scenes in the drama. It turns out that Qianlong had picked it up from when Ruyi dropped it, and kept it for all these years. Qianlong cuts off a lock of his own hair to place in the box next to Ruyi’s, before closing the box, and while holding on it, he passes away. At the same time, Ruyi’s green plum blossom tree finally blossoms. The last scene is of Ruyi, from the day when Hongli wanted to select her as his primary wife.
Thanks everyone for reading! Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
Thank-you for your wonderful recap.Wanted to know what was the reason behind history, the writers' interpretation fitted, along with the stellar cast and especially Zhou Xun made this drama a winner.
Thank you for the recap, the last scene – where it’s shown that Qianlong kept the tresses of her hair – was one of my favourites. I was just wondering how the general public have reacted to the finale? I know it started off with mixed reviews but did it win people over in the end?
I loved this Drama and thank you very much for this Recap! Ruyi is a fantastic and refreshing main character but my all time favourite is Hai Lan. She is just so badass! All in all the Drama was beautifuly made and I loved the intepretation of the story of Ruyi. It differs so much, if you compare it with Story of Yanxi Palace!
It was a beautiful drama
The inaccurate history still bothers me a bit sometimes, everybody including first empress and Ling Fei are evil women but only Ruyi is the good woman. Also, Qianlong did not give her a funeral like an empress, but it was still worse than a commoner according to wikipedia. Doesn't make sense how the drama try to flip that info up side down, how can the emperor loves her most and regret her dying when he did that to her funeral…
They tried hard to make it look like a historical drama, but I had the hardest time to feel anything and can not watch without skipping because of the slow melodrama style. Many people like the sisterly love but I did not find any taste in it. Because Ruyi is so unemotional, never look genuinely happy when she laugh. Actually that was how everyone was like too, the director probably made everyone do that. Not a single person have chemistry with the other because nobody ever looked happy together before. They'd helped each other at one point, so…they are just doing what is right which is to stay forever loyal to death, but without having that piece of chemistry together it's not convincing. The ending was still very slow paced that it didn't win over me, I skipped ALOT.
You missed alot and dont undrrstand because you skipped too much.
I agree with the statement about skipping too much. The author of this article says that, in the end, the emperor’s stripping Ruyi of her title and related related “adornments” resulted because Ruyi did not seek titles or glory. I’m not so sure of that. When I tried to watch the drama a second time to gain a better understanding of what was going on, the English subtitles had been removed.
you have to understand that in ancient time it was really like that, not much emotions and they were really proper soo too much acting may seem silly and will mess up the tone of historical melodrama.
You have to be in the context of that century. Asían in general tend to hide feelings and emotions on this current century, just imagine how it could before, the manners and respect before the empero, if you notice they tend to criticize when women were too opinionated or stubborn. Occidente is very different in affections issues from asían.
I loved this drama and I found the ending perfect for the story, one of my favorites of the year. Thank for the recap
QianLong doesn't deserve love and to be loved 🙂
I had to drop this halfway through. The women did amazing although Janine Chang’s face doesn’t seem to convey much emotion. But Wallace Huo is seriously horrible. Not only does he have the emotional capability of a peanut but he has such bad posture. The hunched shoulders and craned neck..and defaulting to telling whenever he has to portray anger..I just can’t take him seriously.
Does anyone know where I can find the complete drama with English subtitles all the way through the last episode?
you can watch it on Viki.com since dramafever is gone now
In Thailand, I could saw this series until EP.50. Reading this and seen a clip from youtube, my tears …
I finished this drama tonight, and reading your recap gave me a full-circle feeling. I found it sad when Emperor Qianlong decided to remove Ruyi's records and portraits, as well as not giving her the funeral an empress should have, to give her the freedom she wanted. Maybe the real-life Qianlong didn't love the Step Empress like this story, or else it would probably be recorded that he held onto a box that contained a handkerchief she made and their hair together. It was truly sad to see their relationship falling apart; their love was the only reason why Ruyi agreed to be the empress too. With that reason gone, she lost so much motivation to continue living in the palace. Ideally, I would have preferred it if both parties took the effort to try again, but I could see why that didn’t happen because Ruyi was just tired. Maybe if Ruyi wasn’t sick, or if Emperor Qianlong had more time for her after she was declared innocent, I could imagine them slowly rebuilding their relationship. Overall, I greatly enjoyed this drama. I love Hai Lan’s character development and her devotion to Ruyi, and I’ll miss Ling Yunche; he shouldn’t have died 🙁
Cloe, I think you missed an important point! When the emperor had lost faith in Ruyi after their son’s death during childbirth (the result of an evil plot), Ruyi was devastated not only by the loss of their child but also her husband believing the astrologer who “saw” in the stars bad omens connected to Ruyi. Both were hurting from this loss, but the emperor actually shunned Ruyi when she needed him most. His behaviors from that point on deteriorated, not only toward Ruyi (cold, distant emotionally and physically, unavailable emotionally and physically) but also toward the concubines. The consorting with prostitutes was bad!!! The drunkenness was bad. He behaves badly around the drop-dead gorgeous newby who has no interest in him. Come on. He built her her own palace? What an embarrassment and slap in the face to Ruyi! I don’t know the true story of this dynasty, but the “historical fiction” version, in my opinion, is right on target. Ruyi has more guts, integrity, determination, spirit and righteousness than the emperor!
This is the best romantic drama I have seen in a long time. I hate that evil won for so long, but that seems to correlate with real life. Evil reigns for so long it hurts you as the watcher as well. I wanted a happy ending, but I understood what she had to do. She freed herself, her son from rule, and all future women of her clan from ever having to go through that pain again. She was a hero.
Took 3 days to watch the entire drama. Excellent drama with depth & great cast!. Overall, I would recommend everyone to watch this drama. Spoiler*** cried buckets especially towards the end. ��
Didn’t the Dowager Empress cause the death of Ruyi’s newborn? Or did I misunderstand?
Beautiful recap. I now understand the reasoning behind Ruyi's burial. Thank you.
Beautifully written! Delight to read the recap. Thank you ?
Agreed. I loved this drama. I thought every character and the actors who played them were terrific. While many characters were despicable and difficult to like, you couldn’t take away the great job the actor(s) did in portraying them.
Ruyi was the star of this series. How could you not love and adore her? I keep wondering if Zhou Xun is anything like her. There was a few things that aggravated me about the story line that I wish would have been addressed but never were. The most glaring was the fact that the concubines in the harem were constantly framing Ruyi for dirty deeds they concocted and, not only did the Emperor never catch on that these false accusations were plotted by his jealous consorts within the harem, but Ruyi, herself, never brought it up to Qianlong that the women were constantly framing her. A simple, “Oh, what is it this time?” when new accusations were brought up once again would have been warranted! As for the shows execution, the scenery was beautiful, the clothing was exquisite, the food looked terrific and delicious and the formality of gentleness and propriety between the characters was a refreshing reminder of how interactions between people long ago was so much more preferable than speech is today.
I have to add a few favorites here since I think that, without them, the drama would have lacked an emotional connection that was truly needed to offset the coldness and unaffectionate nature of the era and the Empire.
Ruyi was an intelligent and emotional person. Formality and etiquette didn’t allow her to express those emotions and her relationship with Qianlong suffered because of his coldness and lack of affection towards her. But, she was able to bestow her love thru her kindness to the people who knew her well and had no reason to destroy her. My favorite relationships for Ruyi were the ones between her and Suoxin, Rong Pei, Ling Yuchen, Li Yu, Jiang Yubin and, especially, Hailan. And, while everyone in this drama was exceptionally handsome or beautiful, I can’t help saying that Zhilei Xin is totally gorgeous! Thank you for a wonderful production!
I loved the series. Ruyi, in the historical drama, chose to live from a place of compassion, kindness and humility. She shows the Higher Self of how powerful a woman can be in her only choices available to her. And she chose to love, but also to be free of the attachment to power, hatred and greed. While I love watching these dramas- each one seems to have some lessons to learn. In this one, I think it showed that the old system of male domination and having so many concubines with their supreme rights sets up the characters to be competitive, vicious and cruel. But they each have their own reasons to choose goodness or evil. They are all striving to reach goal in a golden cage, the Forbidden City with the only tools at their disposal. While I don’t know how factual this story is, I ended up really dispising the emperor. He never could move through his consciousness to see how his pride and sense of self stood in the way of authentic relationship. He never gave her the due and respect she deserved throughout the 2nd half. It really took until his moment of death, for the blossoms to come back on the plum tree. Karma wise-something must have shifted energetically between the two that repaired that which was broken. Sometimes we can’t see things while we are human, but in death, through our release- all things Unknown can become Known perhaps..
darla z haviland
This was my second Chinese series, first being Empresses of the Palace. I thought both were excellent, although this series did have two many “soap opera” moments and some true overacting by some of the consorts. The standouts were The Empress, Yunche, Consort Jia although most of the performances were very good. It truly immersed you in ancient Chinese culture and made you feel you were there. I cried a lot in a few scenes towards the end and it honestly took me by surprise as I didn’t think I was quite so invested in the characters. I guess that’s the mark of a truly good drama.