Wu Jinyan and Nie Yuan are on their way to make their third drama together, yet there’s still no topping the behemoth that was Story of Yanxi Palace which became Google’s most searched TV show last year. While the cast and story were the main draws of Yanxi Palace, taking a step back to look at the intricate details reveal that a lot of effort also went into the props, the costume designs and even the makeup to provide audiences with an authentic Qing Dynasty experience.
Makeup artist Lin Xiaoli shares her experiences working on the production. For her work, she is required to study different styles and fashion trends of different time periods. You can’t very well apply Tang dynasty makeup to a Qing dynasty drama now, can you? Ancient painting and cultural relics were among those that Lin Xiaoli had to take inspiration from.
Lin Xiaoli recalls the first time she had to apply makeup on Wu Jinyan. Wu Jinyan had to have all of her eyebrows shaved off. Li Xiaoli took into consideration Wu Jinyan’s facial contours while using Qing Dynasty portraits as reference. Lin Xiaoli explains that during the early stages, she and the rest of the makeup artists had to shave their own eyebrows and practice on each other to get the techniques right. She admits that she felt quite accomplished when Wu Jinyan in full makeup ended up being strikingly similar to ancient portraits of Qing Dynasty women.
Story of Yanxi Palace was filmed in midsummer which was an ordeal since actors in makeup don’t do well in the heat and the sweat would melt their makeup. Everyday, the crew had to remove all the actor’s makeup at noon, leaving only the brows and eyes since those aren’t affected by sweat too much. The drawback is that they have to redo the makeup again, which simply put, doubles the amount of work to be done.
Li Xiaoli avoided mainstream looks like the Korean style of straight and natural brows. In Yanxi Palace, no matter how big a star, all the ladies had to have their brows either partially or fully shaved because the purpose of the makeup was to fit the character. No eyeliner was used as using it might create a sense of alienation since it did not belong in the Qing Dynasty. To compensate for the lack of eyeliner, Lin Xiaoli emphasized the use of eye shadow instead.
Lin Xiaoli adds that if the costume and props were like an aircraft carrier whose form is solid and visually daunting, makeup was more like a submarine that isn’t as prominent but subtlety adds to the power of the carrier which in this case, is the Story of Yanxi Palace.