Winding Down

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

I stayed up late to watch the final episodes of “Ruyi’s Royal Love in the Palace”, streaming on Hulu. Holding on until its final episodes took dedication as it has a total of 81. I stayed awake long enough to be short its ending by only a couple of episodes. Now, I’m sensing that the likely ending to Ruyi’s story isn’t as I had hoped.

I’ve had to remember that Ruyi’s story takes place from about 1735 to 1755. It follows a young Emperor from the time of his ascension to power and his choice of a long-time, true love to be his Empress. Theirs is a marriage made complex by his having a harem, and the empire’s need for potential heirs. That was in a time that children (and adults) often died young. In the story and for many years, the Emperor and his Empress held onto their closeness and maintained mutual trust.

Of course, everybody understands that total power can corrupt totally. The series highlights this happening in the Emperor’s role and among his most-highly ranking women. Through it all, Ruyi manages to stand out as an intelligent, insightful, and tolerant partner to the Emperor. She successfully reigns for years but gradually ages and falls victim to young challengers among the harem. Conversely, the Emperor never loses his powerful position.

Watching the Emperor relate to those around him, how he decides national and personal issues, reminds me of today’s #metoo movement. Modern women recently have been able to speak about sexual transgressions against themselves. They’ve brought about the downfalls of wealthy, powerful men, like Harvey Weinstein, Jeffrey Epstein, and my once-favorite, Charlie Rose.

The Ruyi series, created by a different culture, at first seems almost deceptive. Starting off, its most compelling features (these don’t diminish throughout) are every scene’s visually balanced arrangements, their overall sheer beauty and array of colors. The acting is fine, particularly by Zhou Xun in the role of Ruyi. Throughout, is a fabulous soundtrack that I’d order in a heartbeat, but it doesn’t seem commercially available.

This evening, I’ll finish the series with a sense of loss, similar to my feelings at the endings of other great series, like The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, and Deadwood. Those series, and the Ruyi, have it all–complex scripts, great cinematography, fine acting, and both good and bad people. They transported we watchers into other worlds for long periods of time. We watchers experienced, felt, and learned.

Dear Friends: Throughout history, everything Chinese has amazed and been impressive. Diana

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