Based very loosely on the Qing Dynasty Emperor Qian Long's mother, it tells of her life starting from her early entry into the palace at the young age of 17 and how she was slowly embroiled into the politics of the inner palace, despite her reluctance, involving the Empress and the numerous concubines who feign for their own survival and vie for the Emperor's attention and indulgence.
Just when she thought she found her love in the Emperor, she was plotted against, betrayed by some of her closest allies, suffered a miscarriage and experienced the Emperor's distrust, indifference and neglect towards her. After being banished, the jaded Zhen Huan (or Concubine Xi) found new love in the form of the Emperor's younger brother the 17th Prince but had to subsequently go against her own wishes to return to the palace to reclaim her position to save her loved ones and to avenge the deaths of those dear to her.
This series gained great popularity when it was aired in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan because of its convoluted plot, excellent acting and interesting characters. What intrigued me was how art imitated life as there are similarities between what went on in the inner palace and modern society's office politics and power struggles. The biggest difference is every wrong step taken by the characters may cost them their lives and hence they often had to go all out to plot against others in order to save their own skin and their extended families.
After a fulfilling few weeks of watching the series daily for hours, I suddenly felt a sense of loss when it all ended. There seemed to be a void with nothing to look forward to but I know I will get over it and return back to reality. I am living in the real life and not in the past although I am certain some audience would similarly experience some form of withdrawal symptoms when the show ended.