Historical romance drama Ruyi’s Royal Love in the Palace 后宫·如懿传, also known as the sequel to Empresses in the Palace / Legend of Zhenhuan 后宫·甄嬛传, has finally released the full supporting cast list.
I have translated the plot, character descriptions and ranks below. All the information I have gathered is based on the original novel. A word of warning that some of the characters’ endings are also included, so do proceed with caution.
The drama has already started filming, and is aiming to run for 90 episodes on Dragon TV and Jiangsu TV in late 2017. Actor and director Wang Jun (A Love For Separation) will be leading the production, and original author Liu Lianzi will be the sole screenwriter.
With the Ulanara clan in disgrace after Empress Yixiu (played by Ada Choi in Legend of Zhenhuan and Joan Chen in this drama) falls out of favour, Qingying / Ruyi learns the politics of the harem and steadily climbs up the ranks to become Empress. Even after surviving through multiple conspiracies and successfully proving her innocence, her relationship with Hongli (Qianlong) had become irreparable. Ruyi eventually becomes disillusioned with her husband and the harsh reality of life in the Palace. Ruyi is put under house arrest after being stripped of power, and commits suicide soon afterwards.
Zhou Xun as Ulanara · Qingying / Ruyi
Ce’fujin (secondary wife) -> Consort Xian -> Noble Lady -> Commoner (demoted) -> Consort -> Noble Consort -> Imperial Noble Consort -> Empress
Qingying was chosen to be one of Hongli’s secondary wives (ce’fujin), and falls in love with him at first sight. Unfortunately, the Ulanara family’s reputation affected her standing in the palace, and she was only granted the position of Consort Xian when Hongli ascended the throne as the Qianlong Emperor. To avoid further trouble, the Empress Dowager changed her name to Ruyi, which symbolises peace and quiet.
Ruyi met palace guard Ling Yunche when she was first banished to the Cold Palace, and they soon developed a close friendship. During her time there, Ruyi also found a mentor in Consort Dowager Ji, an unfavoured concubine of the deceased Yongzheng Emperor. After Ji was sentenced to death, Ruyi resolved to return to the Palace in order to exact revenge and clear up all the misunderstandings between her and Qianlong. Ruyi’s relationship with Qianlong completely deteriorated after he ordered Ling Yunche’s castration.
**Some historians believe Ruyi was deposed because she cut her hair in front of the Emperor, which is extremely disrespectful in Manchu culture. It remains to be seen which direction the drama will take.
Wallace Huo as Aisin Gioro · Hongli / Qianlong Emperor
Fourth son of the Yongzheng Emperor, and has a strained relationship with his foster mother Zhenhuan, the Empress Dowager Niuhuru (Vivian Wu). A selfish and insecure ruler; his suspicious nature caused him to become distrustful of Ruyi, and Qianlong ultimately banished her to the Cold Palace.
Janine Chang as Keliyete · Hailan
Embroidery lady -> Mistress Hai (ge’ge)-> First Class Female Attendant (changzai) -> Noble Lady Yu -> Concubine -> Consort
Loyal friend and confidante of Ruyi. Hailan was initially an embroidery lady in Fourth Prince’s (Hongli) residence, though the latter took her virginity after accidentally entering her bedroom. She was the laughing stock of the entire household until Ruyi helped her gain the title of Mistress. Despite bearing Hongli’s son, she did not develop any feelings for him. After Ruyi’s death, Hailan formed an alliance with other concubines and made sure Wei Yanwan received due comeuppance for her crimes.
Dong Jie as Fucha · Langhua
Di’fujin (principal wife) -> Empress
A seemingly shrewd lady who had her sights set on the position of Empress. She often collaborated with Gao Xiyue to frame Ruyi as the main culprit in everything, though was oblivious to the fact that Yuyan was also using her as a chess piece. She was a scapegoat until death, and died a disgraced woman.
Tong Yao as Gao Xiyue / Gaogiya** · Xiyue
**The Gao family changed their Han sounding surname to a Manchu one, and was thus placed under one of the Manchu banners.
Mistress Gao (ge’ge) -> Ce’fujin -> Noble Consort Hui -> Imperial Noble Consort
A scheming woman who chose to submit to the more powerful Empress Fucha, and constantly helped her plot against Ruyi. When Ruyi returned from the Cold Palace, Xiyue claimed she saw Ah Ruo’s ghost, which was in fact a plan devised to alienate her from Qianlong. Xiyue was discarded by Langhua after she lost the Emperor’s favour, and on her death bed, caused Qianlong to contract scabies by luring him onto a quilt filled with dirty goose feathers.
Xing Zhilei as Jin Yuyan
Mistress Jin (ge’ge) -> Noble Lady Jia -> Concubine – > Consort -> Noble Consort -> Concubine (demoted) – > Noble Lady -> Concubine (demoted) -> Consort -> Noble Consort
She was an orphan that was taken in by a Joseon minister, and entered Hongli’s residence not long after Ruyi and Gao Xiyue. The main culprit behind many of the concubines’ deaths, her evil deeds were eventually revealed, and Qianlong granted her the posthumous title of Imperial Noble Consort Shujia (homophone of 输家 / Shujia / loser).
Li Chun as Wei Yanwan / Weigiya · Yanwan
Palace maid (department of royal attire) -> Maid to Third Princess -> Maid to Consort Chun -> Palace Maid (imperial gardens) -> Maid to Consort Jia -> Female Attendant Wei -> Second Class Female Attendant (daying) -> First Class Female Attendant (changzai) -> Noble Lady Ling -> Concubine -> Consort -> Noble Consort -> Imperial Noble Consort
Ambitious, cruel, and treacherous – Yanwan was born a noble lady of the Yellow Banner, and reduced to being a palace maid after her father was tried for treason. Her first love was Ling Yunche, though she abandoned him after Qianlong took notice (due to her close resemblance with Ruyi). Responsible for the death of many imperial children, consorts, and Ruyi’s ultimate demise.
Chen Haoyu as Yehenara · Yihuan
Noble Lady Shu -> Concubine -> Consort
Innocent and good-natured, Yihuan was recommended into the palace by the Empress Dowager, which meant she never gained the Emperor’s trust. Unbeknownst to her, Qianlong personally gave her medicine that would prevent her from bearing healthy children. Yihuan became mentally unstable after her son died in infancy, and committed suicide soon after.
Zeng Yixuan as Ah Ruo (fictional)
Personal maid -> Palace maid (serving the Emperor) -> First Class Female Attendant Shen (changzai) -> Noble Lady -> Concubine -> Commoner (demoted)
Originally a personal maid that entered Fourth Prince Hongli’s residence as part of Ruyi’s dowry, she secretly sided with the Empress in an effort to climb up the ranks. She was used by Qianlong as a charade partner to spite Ruyi, and sent to the torture chambers after Ruyi returned to the Palace.
Jing Chao as Ling Yunche (fictional)
Ling Yunche is first introduced to readers as a Palace guard responsible for the safety of the Cold Palace. Yunche becomes attracted to Ruyi after Yanwan abandons him for power, and helps her get through the most difficult times. He harbours an unrequited love for Ruyi but is aware he doesn’t stand a chance against Qianlong. He is later accused of having an affair with Ruyi, castrated and subsequently ordered to serve in Ruyi’s palace as a form of humiliation.
Joan Chen as Ulanara · Yixiu
Empress to Yongzheng, and Ruyi’s aunt. She died after asking Ruyi to take care of the Ulanara Clan.
Hu Ke as Su Lvyun
Mistress Su (ge’ge) -> Concubine Chun -> Consort -> Noble Consort -> Imperial Noble Consort
A naive woman who treated everyone with kindness. She loved her son dearly, and was willing to do anything for him, which meant she was often manipulated by other women in the harem. Lvyun accidentally caused the death of Second Prince, and lost Qianlong’s favour when he found out she wanted to take the position of Empress for herself.
Li Qin as Han Xiangjian
Noble Lady Rong -> Concubine -> Consort (also known as Consort Xiang)
A beautiful woman who was taken into the palace by General Zhaohui after her tribe was conquered by the Qing Dynasty. Xiangjian’s only goal was to assassinate Qianlong in order to take revenge for her lover.
Cao Xiwen as Chen Wanyin
Mistress Chen (ge’ge) -> Second Class Female Attendant Wan (daying) -> First Class Female Attendant (changzai) -> Noble Lady -> Concubine -> Consort
A timid lady who never formed cliques, and always kept to herself. She was not favoured, and did not serve the Emperor for twelve years. She unknowingly played a part in Qianlong and Ruyi’s separation due to Jin Yuyan’s manipulations.
Zhang Jianing as Balin · Meiruo
Concubine Xin -> Consort
**It is possible that the characters Lady Balin and Dai Meiruo have been merged.
A spirited young lady who is described as the “Southern beauty” by Qianlong. She despised Wei Yanwan and Jin Yuyan, and ended up becoming good friends with Ruyi.
He Hongshan as Bai Ruiji (fictional)
Second Class Female Attendant Mei (daying) -> First Class Female Attendant (changzai) -> Noble Lady -> Concubine
She was the first woman to be taken into inner palace after Hongli ascended the throne as Qianlong. She was sent in by Ruyi’s mother, though actually worked for Zhenhuan. Ruiji often did the dirty work for the Empress Dowager and Qianlong, and was their scapegoat when everything was revealed. The harem pretended Ruiji never existed, and all of the information about her was wiped from the palace records.
Yu Yang as Lu Muping
First Class Female Attendant Qing (changzai) -> Noble Lady -> Concubine -> Consort -> Noble Consort
A daughter of the Deputy Minister from the Court of Sacrificial Worship. Qianlong was always cordial towards Muping, but never let his guard down around her because he knew she was the Empress Dowager’s spy. She was put in charge of the Inner Palace after Wei Yanwan was diagnosed with heart problems.
Han Dantong as Huang Qiying
Maid to Fucha · Langhua -> Mistress Huang (ge’ge) -> Noble Lady Yi
Originally a maid under Langhua, she was promoted to the position of Mistress after Qianlong took advantage of her. Langhua and Xiyue despised Qiying for stealing the Emperor’s affections, and caused her to miscarry. She was manipulated into believing that Ruyi was the culprit, and attempted to assassinate the latter when they were living in the same quarters.
Zhao Ke as Borjigit · Eyinzhu
Noble Lady Duo -> Concubine Yu -> Consort
A descendant of Mongolian royalty, and an early favourite of Qianlong. Was sent to the torture chambers after she was found to have lied about Ruyi and Ling Yunche’s affair.
Yuan Wenkang as Jiang Yubin – Imperial physician, childhood sweetheart and later husband to Suoxin. Sought vengeance for Suoxin by poisoning Jin Yuyan’s son.
Huang Ming as Li Yu – Personal eunuch serving Qianlong, and often assisted Ruyi because she once lent him a helping hand. Li Yu later succeeded Wang Qin as Head Eunuch.
Chen Xiaoyun as Suoxin – Remained loyal to Ruyi through thick and thin, and became disabled after Jin Yuyan put her through excessive torture.
Gong Xiaoxuan as Yuhu – Personal maid serving Qianlong.
Guo Hong as Fujia – Personal maid serving Zhenhuan, the Empress Dowager Niuhuru.
Hu Ming as Wang Qin – Personal eunuch serving Qianlong, and was in charge of royal edicts. Was often hostile towards Li Yu.
Li Qi as Sanbao – Personal eunuch serving Ruyi.
Xia Nan as Lixin – Personal maid of Jin Yuyan.