Based on Milan Lady’s novel of the same name, upcoming period drama Held in the Lonely Castle 孤城闭 stars Wang Kai as Zhao Zhen, a benevolent emperor who would bring in one of the most prosperous periods of the Song Dynasty with the help of his government.
When Zhao Zhen (Renzong of Song) discovers his biological mother is not the Empress Dowager Liu E, but her maid Li Lanhui, he arranges a marriage between his beloved daughter and the Li family’s son Li Wei as compensation for his lack of filial piety. In the political arena, Zhao Zhen strives to maintain a balance of power between the conservative and progressive factions after the Qingli reforms experience a significant backlash from the former.
Outside the palace, Huirou’s married life with Li Wei is far from pleasant – displeased with her foolish and boring husband, and annoyed by her prying in-laws, Huirou develops an even closer relationship with her eunuch Liang Huaiji. After a serious dispute with her husband’s family, Huirou knowingly breaks the law by charging back to the palace the same night with the help of Huaiji.
The next day, conservative official Sima Guang presents a scathing memorial to Zhao Zhen, heavily criticising Huirou for her selfishness and violation of imperial etiquette. Zhao Zhen had always encouraged freedom of speech and supported a supervisory system that would maintain disciplinary surveillance over bureaucrats and royalty, and must ultimately choose between his daughter’s happiness and the stability of government.
The original mostly revolved around the tragic romance between Huirou and Huaiji, though I wouldn’t mind if they placed more emphasis on Zhao Zhen’s life and his inner conflicts, because Daylight Entertainment aren’t the best at producing romance stories.
The 55 episode drama is written by Zhu Zhu (When A Snail Falls in Love, Surgeons) and directed by Zhang Kaizhou, whose first Song dynasty period drama The Story of Minglan will be airing early next year.
Fun fact: The romance between Huirou and Liang Huaji is based on true historical events.