Have you found yourself scrolling through Netflix trying to find a good show to binge? Are you in search of a show that is worthy of your commitment, time, and procrastination? Are you willing to go to sketchy websites to watch a show? Say less, because I have the series just for you: “Zhen Huan Zhuan.”

“Zhen Huan Zhuan” — also known as “后宫·甄嬛传,” “Empresses in the Palace,” or “The Legend of Zhen Huan” — is a 2011 Chinese television series based on the novel of the same name by Liu Lianzi. If you’ve ever seen any telenovela or would like to watch something with the same vibe, “Zhen Huan Zhuan” is the answer for you.

As a person who is neither Chinese nor fluent in Mandarin or Cantonese, I found this show thanks to my friend, Zhan, who has introduced me to many aspects of Chinese culture ever since she told me this was the year of the Tiger (I was born in the year of the Tiger, so obviously I had to celebrate it properly). While we usually go for K-dramas or family sitcoms on Netflix when searching for a new binge-watch, Zhan shrieked in excitement upon seeing a Prime Video thumbnail with familiar cover art. Renamed “Empresses in the Palace,” Zhan clicked on the TV Series that she originally knew as “Zhen Huan Zhuan.” However, as Zhan watched — and I mostly read the subtitles of — the first episode, we realized that Prime Video had wronged us deeply. 

Though I was captivated by everything from the gorgeous costuming to the scenery and ambiance of it all, Zhan kept saying, “They skipped so much!” I had no idea what she was talking about, but in the series details on Prime Video, we found the unfortunate truth: The version of “Zhen Huan Zhuan” on Prime Video is actually a summarized version of the original TV series. The Prime version lasts less than 10 episodes, each one being around three hours long. Let it be stated that “Zhen Huan Zhuan” is originally 76 episodes long. 

Disappointed by the audacity of Jeff Bezos doing us dirty like that, we turned off the TV and started brainstorming. I was already in too deep at this point: the way all the characters talked to each other and about each other, and what they said versus what they did was so unlike anything I had ever seen. It was so… dramatic and petty, and above all, so beautifully passive-aggressive. Needless to say, I was very invested in Zhen Huan’s (the protagonist) future in the palace. So, we did what any other person would: look for the series in every other streaming service we could find. At last, we found a contender: YouTube.

In any other circumstance, I would be the first to question any wacko who pays for YouTube Premium. Any person in their right mind knows: We do not pay for Youtube. However, desperate times call for desperate measures, and we would not be able to handle ads every five minutes for 76 episodes that lasted about 40 minutes each. Thus, I made the sacrifice and started my Youtube Premium free trial to continue our journey with Zhen Huan. And boy, it was worth it.

Let me paint you the picture: It’s Ancient China and the Imperial Palace is the home for many things. Love. Secrets. Drugs. Deceit. Treason. War. Murder! The only people you can trust? No one! Well, okay, you can trust Mei and Dr. Wen, but no one else. It’s like “Game of Thrones,” but without any boobs, sex, or even kissing. Oh, did I fail to mention that? This incredibly love-and-lust-driven show has no on-screen kisses. None. Would you believe me if I told you that it really doesn’t need any either? The script (or at least the translation, for me) is enough to convey everything and anything one would need to know.

I have to admit I still haven’t finished the show, due to the fact that YouTube only translated 49 of the 76 episodes. However, Zhan and I have invested in an HDMI cord and have kept watching the show through a website called “DramaCool.” While we don’t necessarily encourage going to sketchy websites to finish TV series, the Chinese have left us no other choice as their TV programming is too good for us to leave unfinished.

Coming from a Latinx background, it’s been so fun learning about Chinese culture, language, and history from watching this show with my friend. Yes, the show might be a hassle to engage with if you’re not fluent in Mandarin, but it’s an interesting adventure! That being said, if anyone on campus has all the DVDs of “Zhen Huan Zhuan” handy, I am willing to invest in a DVD player to watch the show in and am more than happy to supply a big TV to watch it on.



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