“Legend of Zhen Huan” Lands on Netflix

Empresses in the Palace on Netflix

Netizens react to the series’s short running time: “Get rid of Consort Hua Fei in two episodes, get rid of the empress in two episodes, and then get rid of the emperor in two episodes.”

Despite previous reports that Legend of Zhen Huan (后宫·甄嬛传) would air on HBO for its American release, the series has actually been picked up by the on-demand media provider Netflix. It recently became available for streaming on Netflix’s website under the name Empresses in the Palace.

Originally 76 episodes long, Empresses has been shortened to six episodes, each with a running time of 90 minutes. Because the American release is so much shorter, some of the cast has seen their screen time all but disappear. The biggest victim is Chen Jianbin‘s Emperor Yongzheng, many of whose scenes were cut to make room for the doomed romance between Zhen Huan (Sun Li) and Prince Guo Jun (Li Dongxue).

The American release of Empresses has been in production for two years, with most of that time spent on the new soundtrack and on the English subtitles. On a random note of interest, Sun Li’s staff protested when Netflix originally posted the actress’s name as “Betty Sun,” saying that she has never used the English name “Betty” and that the website should have used “Li Sun” or “Susan Sun.” (Whoops, guess Wikipedia needs to be edited!)

As of publication, Empresses has a 3.6-star rating (out of 5) on Netflix, but director Zheng Xiaolong says he is not overly concerned with how the series fares in the United States. “The most important thing is that Americans have the opportunity to watch the series and at least have some understanding toward Chinese history and culture,” he stated.

Netflix is currently available in around 50 countries, not including mainland China. However, the company has expressed interest in expanding its market to China, which may be why it purchased the rights to Empresses.


10 thoughts on ““Legend of Zhen Huan” Lands on Netflix

  1. I saw it on Netflix and was so interested. im now watching it on kissasian with subtitles and am obsessed. I speak no Chinese and am kinda angry that all this history is new to me. The Netflix version cut out so much but it did set me up with some back story and the narration by huan is good.

  2. This makes me so conflicted. On the one hand, I’m glad Western audiences are getting the opportunity to watch Chinese dramas and be exposed to Chinese culture, but on the other, cutting down episodes (especially from 76 to 6!!) means losing quality and depth, not to mention a lot of story. People are always quick to judge which is why first impressions are so important; there hasn’t been a great track record with the recut/shortened Chinese movies on Netflix so I hope this recut version is good! Judging from the reviews of some of these recut movies on Netflix though I’ll be surprised if the response is more than lukewarm. I wish Netflix and Hollywood would let audiences watch the original versions and let us decide for ourselves instead of assuming we are too dumb, too impatient to digest longer forms of entertainment.

  3. Kinda weird that Sun Li’s team is now claiming her English name is Susan, when the name
    Betty Sun has been used for a long time. Why not just stick with her Chinese name?

  4. The heck is going on… I still want to try to watch it since I heard they filmed some additional parts, but still…they’re changing this arch about ZH into a doomed romance. *sigh*

  5. Urgh why the need for a new OST? Watching the US version is like watching LZH on fast-forward and missing lots of important parts of the story. T_T”

    • I’m treating it more like “Legend of Zhen Huan Abridged,” and hoping that after people watch it on Netflix, they’ll be interested in the full version.

        • Heh, I saw some of your thoughts on your site’s sidebar. You should make a post about it, if you have time! I’m sure people would be interested, and you’re probably the only English-speaking person in the Chinese-language drama fandom who’s qualified to speak about it. :P

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