China's imperial palace drama, Story Of Yanxi Palace, shatters viewership records

Palace intrigue, backstabbing concubines and dramatic plotlines involving maids and eunuchs. China simply cannot get enough of imperial palace dramas.

Yet another period piece set in the Forbidden City during the Qing dynasty, like 2011's Empresses In The Palace - one of the most successful dramas in the genre - has become a smash hit.

The Story Of Yanxi Palace, co-produced by China's biggest streaming platform iQiyi and production company Huanyu Film, garnered 530 million views last Sunday (Aug 12), setting a record for highest single-day online viewership, the South China Morning Post reported.

The show has racked up a cumulative 5.6 billion views since its release last month, or an average of 130 million views per episode.

China is home to the world's largest army of netizens, with some 770 million Internet users, and dramas are pulling out all the stops to attract viewers. The Story Of Yanxi Palace alone reportedly had a budget of about 300 million yuan (S$60 million).

The show follows a young woman who enters the palace as a maid to investigate the death of her sister and eventually becomes one of Emperor Qianlong's concubines. The cast includes big names such as Hong Kong's Charmaine Sheh.

The drama is currently being broadcast on Hong Kong's TVB, which has acquired the rights to screen the show in Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore and Malaysia.

The drama also counts a former Channel 8 actor in its ensemble cast. Lawrence Wong, 36, who in the past was in Singapore productions such as 118, a popular 255-episode local drama, has a supporting role in Story Of Yanxi Palace as a military general.

Since venturing to China to further his acting career, the Malaysian-born Wong has found new fans abroad with his role, receiving over 5,000 love letters from female fans daily.

The 70-epsiode drama is still streaming on iQiyi, with two episodes released daily from Tuesday to Sunday. The final episode will stream on Aug 28.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.