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Daily Drip

Some of China’s Biggest Historical TV Dramas Disappear After Article Calls Out Their “Sins”

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Harmless period drama fluff or promoters of hedonism and extravagance? Chinese authorities’ have decided that some of the biggest historical TV shows of the last few years fall into the latter category, with hugely popular series becoming the latest targets in the censors’ war on perceived negative values.

Ruyi’s Royal Love in the Palace and Story of Yanxi Palace have both mysteriously disappeared from TV schedules over the past few days. As SCMP writes,

The change in programming schedules followed an article in Friday’s edition of the Beijing Daily magazine Theory Weekly which called out the “sins” of imperial dramas, claiming they encouraged viewers to pursue the glamorous lifestyles of China’s past monarchs and promoted pleasure and luxury above the “virtues of frugality and hard work”.

The article singled out a number of period dramas – including Story of Yanxi Palace and Ruyi’s Royal Love in the Palace – and said a close following of the plots of these series – which usually involve elaborate schemes hatched by back-stabbing courtiers – would worsen the “balance” of society.

Given that Yanxi Palace and Ruyi’s Royal Love have racked up millions upon millions of views between them, you might think the censors have reacted a little late to this perceived promotion of negative values. And while the action risks incurring the wrath of the shows’ loyal followings and repeat viewers, it is in keeping with the current campaigns of the powers that be to “purify” the content put in front of the populace.

Historical dramas have long been a vehicle in China for addressing contemporary issues in an indirect manner. Yanxi Palace in particular struck a chord last summer for its portrayal of a strong female lead at a time when China’s nascent #MeToo movement was struggling to take-off (read more about that below). Ruyi also came loaded with palace intrigue and a scheming central character, but it seems such intriguing storylines have now spelt the shows’ downfalls.

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