Retired ‘Empresses’ in the Palace Captivate Chinese Netizens

Social Media Loves This Retiree-made Adaptation of Hit TV Show

A group of 16 older people from Shanghai have created a 15-minute remake of ‘Empresses in the Palace,’ a show previously released by Netflix in 2015

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terra wang
6:23 PM HKT, Tue November 1, 2022 2 mins read

Have you ever dreamed about life after retirement? These 16 retired women from Shanghai are enjoying a new chapter of their lives by dressing up in costumes and reproducing one of their favorite Chinese dramas, Empresses in the Palace (甄嬛传, Zhenhuan Zhuan).

Using a total of 64,000 RMB (about 8,800 USD) to cover all expenses during a three-day shooting trip, they have successfully created a 15-minute remake of the historical TV series. Since being posted online, the short video (watch a clip below) has gone viral on the Chinese internet.

Averaging 62 years of age, the women hadn’t initially set out to make a short film.

They got their start shooting fun photos and videos of themselves around Shanghai. However, when the novelty in that wore off, they decided to try something new — a mini adaptation of Empresses in the Palace.

According to The Paper, one of their children reached out to a filmmaker friend, Peng Kai, who also owns a photo and video studio for older people. Within the span of two months, Peng had confirmed a filming location, polished the script, and recruited a film crew.

Everyone agreed to film the short video at the Hengdian World Studios in East China’s Zhejiang province. It is one of the world’s largest film studios, dubbed ‘China’s Hollywood,’ where many Chinese TV shows and movies are filmed, including the original Empresses in the Palace.

The Chinese TV series, which tells the story of a young woman’s transformation from an innocent girl to a cruel empress in a harem, first aired in 2011. In 2015, Netflix acquired the rights to the show and released six 90-minute episodes suited for Western audiences.

Empresses in the Palace netflix

Poster for Netflix’s Empresses in the Palace. Image via IMDb

The original 2011 series boasts a huge following and is still making its rounds on the Chinese internet. Recently, Chinese milk tea brand HeyTea acquired the rights to launch themed drinks, stickers, and trinkets to celebrate the show’s 11th anniversary.

As longtime fans of Empresses in the Palace, the 16 retirees were more than happy to take on a new challenge. One of them even pulled in her husband to perform as the emperor. After some basic lessons in acting and memorizing their lines, the retired actresses and the film crew completed shooting the short film in under six hours.

Empresses in the Palace remake

The cast of the retiree remake of Empresses in the Palace

The retirees’ mini remake, which was first released on the Chinese video platform Bilibili, has found a welcome audience and had been viewed more than 1 million times at the time of writing.

Although some netizens have raised an eyebrow over possible copyright issues, most have expressed their awe over the quality of performances from folks of their parents’ generation.

“Their accents sound so cute and fit into the storyline better. This makes the series more realistic and closer to life. I like it,” commented a Bilibili user.

The video then began circulating on the microblogging platform Weibo, where a user wrote, “Their acting skills become better and better throughout the 15 minutes. I think the aunties have done a better job than some celebrities; at least they are using their own voices instead of dubbing.”

Another shared, “My family has also made a short video at Hengdian. However, as my family is male-dominated, we had to choose a different script. I wish we could have done one like this.”

Empresses in the Palace remake

The professional film crew provides onsite instructions

The retirees’ project has been an unexpected source of inspiration to many. A comment with hundreds of likes on Bilibili reads, “Acting was also my dream. This reminds me of the past days when I used to put on a bed sheet and act solo at home.”

Some young people have also begun fantasizing about retirement after watching the short film. “I would like to remake one of my favorite TV shows with my dearest friends when I get old!” a netizen wrote.

All images via Weibo, unless otherwise stated

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