Series: Princess Returning Pearl
Huan Zhu Ge Ge: original series vs remake Princess Returning Pearl
(original name: 还珠格格; also known by its pinyin title Huan Zhu Ge Ge
, or Princess Pearl
or My Fair Princess
or The Return of Princess Pearl
) is a Chinese series set in the Qing dynasty
in the time of Emperor Qian Long. It tells the Mistaken Identity
story of Xiao Yan Zi, an orphan living in Beijing and Zi Wei, the illegitimate daughter of the emperor.
The screenplay was written by famous Taiwanese romance writer and TV producer, Qiong Yao
, who afterwards also turned her screenplays into a series of novels consisting of eight volumes.
The original show consisted of three series broadcast in China in 1998, 1999 and 2003 respectively. The series was extremely popular in Mainland China, Taiwan and South East Asia. The first two series helped three of its main actors, Zhao Wei
, Ruby Lin and Alec Su, shoot to fame. Series 3 was significantly recast
and thus suffered Critical Backlash
In 2011 the show was remade into a new TV series, retelling the story but with significant changes to character and storylines.
Princess Returning Pearl contains examples of:
open/close all folders
- Action Girl: Xiao Yan Zi and Liu Hong
- Agony of the Feet: When Qian Long punishes Xiao Yan Zi by making her write lines, she gets so frustrated when Zi Wei keeps tearing up her messily written pages that she kicks the table.
- All-Loving Hero: Zi Wei. Even Xiao Yan Zi, sometimes.
- Anguished Declaration of Love: Examples, by no mean exhaustive: Yong Qi to Xiao Yan Zi, Er Kang to Zi Wei, Xia Yu He to Qian Long…
- Han Xiang pleading Er Kang and Yong Qi to not kill Meng Dan is a declaration of itself.
- Arranged Marriage:
- Averted with Yong Qi and Xiao Yan Zi; Er Kang and Zi Wei
- Played with in the situations between Er Kang and Xiao Yan Zi; Er Kang and Sai Ya; Er Kang and Qing Er; Er Kang and Jin Suo. (Noticing a trend here? You’re not the only one, characters have alluded to it as well.)
- Played straight with Han Xiang to Qian Long, and later Zhi Hua and Yong Qi.
- Artistic License – History: The real prince Yong Qi dies at age 25. In the series he gives up on being a prince for his One True Love, is declared dead.
- Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Xiao Yan Zi and Yong Qi have many, many moments.
- Babies Make Everything Better: Averted with Zhi Hua, whose baby just makes everything worst for Xiao Yan Zi. Played straight with Ling Fei in series 2, Zi Wei and Xiao Yan Zi in series 3.
- Bad Ass: Pretty much all the protagonists have moments, but Xiao Yan Zi takes the cake most often.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Xiao Yan Zi was desperate for a father so decided to “borrow” Zi Wei’s father for a few days, thus starting all the troubles…
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: Xiao Yan Zi and Yong Qi, combined with Everyone Can See It.
- Berserk Button: Do not hurt Zi Wei. Do not even think of hurting Zi Wei. Er Kang will go crazy (and possibly murderous).
- Best Friends In Law: In the group of friends, they basically all end up marrying each other:
- Xiao Yan Zi marries Zi Wei’s brother Yong Qi, making them friends and sisters-in-law.
- Yong Qi’s friend Er Kang marries Zi Wei, making them brothers-in-law.
- Then later Xiao Jian, Xiao Yan Zi’s brother, marries Yong Qi’s cousin (of some sort) Qing Er.
- Better as Friends: Qing Er and Er Kang.
- Big Brother Worship: Xiao Yan Zi with Xiao Jian.
- Subverted with Zi Wei and Yong Qi, who have a cordial relationship but most of the time, it doesn’t seem particularly obvious that they are related at all. Understandable since they did not grow up together, and only meet in their late teens. Even if they did grow up together, as Yong Qi, being Genre Savvy, once told Xiao Yan Zi, that does not guarantee closeness.
- Big Damn Heroes: Xiao Yan Zi of course. Also Yong Qi, Er Kang, Er Tai, Xiao Jian, Liu Qing, Liu Hong. Even Zi Wei gets her chance to rescue Er Kang in series 3 in a pretty epic way (for Zi Wei).
- Blessed with Suck: Han Xiang's scent makes her desirable to powerful men, but keep her away from Meng Dan, makes it impossible for her to run away with him because her scent can be tracked.
- Blood Brothers: And sisters. Xiao Yan Zi and Zi Wei made a pact to be sisters for life, but their oath was sealed with wine, not blood.
- Xiao Yan Zi also wants to be sworn brothers with everybody.
- Book Dumb: Xiao Yan Zi
- Break the Cutie:
- Zi Wei gets slapped, beaten, tortured or hurt every other episode, it seems. Then in series 3, her husband dies leaving her suffering Heroic BSOD.
- Xiao Yan Zi when she finds out about the truth about her family, to the point that in both the original series 3 and the remake she attempted to kill Qian Long but ultimately failing. In addition to that, she suffers two miscarriages and then the love of her life is forced to marry another woman, who then gives him the heir everyone so demanded from him.
- Break the Haughty: The Empress and Rong Mo Mo, twice! Also Zhi Hua when Yong Qi leaves at the end of series 3.
- Break Up Make Up Scenario: Yong Qi and Xiao Yan Zi basically embody this trope:
- The time when Yong Qi, acting under pressure, forces Xiao Yan Zi to learn poetry. She decides she’s had enough and runs away, only to be kidnapped by an evil couple and the hardship she is forced to endure at their hand makes her realises how good she had it in the palace, and how much Yong Qi really does care about her.
- Their relationship comes to almost a breaking point once in series 2, all due to Yong Qi’s jealousy of Xiao Jian.
- Then there is that fight after Zhi Hua gives birth to Mian Yi, which ends in Xiao Yan Zi storming off, later telling Yong Qi she does not love him anymore. She realises that she still loves him though, when her brother attempts to kill him.
- Bride and Switch: Xiao Yan Zi and Zi Wei have a double wedding, but ended up getting mixed up and for the first time, doing the ceremony with the wrong person, and only realised in the wedding chamber and the red veil is lifted. It’s a good thing Yong Qi really can’t marry Zi Wei. The ceremony has to be done all over again.
- Brilliant but Lazy: Xiao Yan Zi is implied to be intelligent but just unguided and extremely lazy.
- Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: Er Kang and Zi Wei.
- Brother-Sister Incest: Subverted. Xiao Yan Zi was basically in name and title Yong Qi’s sister when they begin their relationship. They are not actually brother and sister though, and eventually the identity crisis is cleared up.
- Calling the Old Man Out: Xiao Yan Zi to Qian Long when he neglects Ling Fei to go hang out with Han Xiang instead. It got her a slap on the face in the process.
- Cannot Spit It Out: Yong Qi names practically all the female peers he and Xiao Yan Zi have in common (including her servants!!) and then say they are not the subject of his romantic interest in an attempt to tell Xiao Yan Zi that he was interested in her. See the conversation in Captain Oblivious below.
- Captain Oblivious: Xiao Yan Zi on Yong Qi’s feelings for her.
Yong Qi: Don’t you ever think I might have someone in my heart? …Someone who stands right in front of me but still seem so far away.
Xiao Yan Zi (who is standing right in front of him): What? You know Zi Wei is already taken, you can’t just take other people’s sweetheart just because you’re a prince.
Yong Qi *facepalm*: How can it be Zi Wei. You know she is my sister.
Xiao Yan Zi: Oh right. Then is it Jin Suo?
Yong Qi: It’s not Zi Wei! It’s not Jin Suo! It’s not Ming Yue! It’s not Cai Xia! It’s the person who spends every waking moment with them, the person who I shot with an arrow once and ever since then can’t stop thinking about. Now do you understand?
- Character Name Alias: Xiao Jian admits that this isn't his real name from his first meeting with the main cast.
- Xiao Yan Zi isn't her real name either. It is unclear where she gets this name, as it is implied that when she was growing up in the convent, the nuns called her by her real name of Xiao Ci.
- When wanting to cover up his princely status, Yong Qi uses the name Ai Qi, which is basically the first character in his full surname/clan name (Aisin Gioro) and the second character from his given name. Likewise, his father uses the surname Ai when going on his incognito trips.
- Chastity Couple: The original series 1 and 2 more than the remake. This was feudal China. There were only very chaste kisses and hand-holding, and the couples were already being gossiped about as inappropriate.
- The remake just goes “Screw it!” with this trope and basically has a lot of…kissing.
- Chick Magnet: Er Kang. Let us count the women he attracts over the course of the three original series: Zi Wei, Sai Ya, Jin Suo, Qing Er, Mu Sha.
- Compared to Yong Qi who only gets two (Xiao Yan Zi and Zhi Hua/Xin Rong).
- If you don’t count Cai Lian.
- Averted with Xiao Yan Zi who never was remotely interested in Er Kang ever, but more likely because she knew Zi Wei loved him before she even knew him.
- Childhood Friends: Yong Qi and Er Tai.
- Childhood Marriage Promise: The implied match between Qing Er and Er Kang.
- Chronic Hero Syndrome: Xiao Yan Zi has this.
- Cock Fight: Played with between Xiao Jian and Yong Qi for Xiao Yan Zi. It turns out Xiao Jian is not interested in Xiao Yan Zi romantically at all because she is his sister.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: Zi Wei suffers most from this, including the time when the Empress tortured her by pricking needles into her body to make her confess her true purpose in the palace (which was not the seduce the emperor), then there is the time where Lao Fo Ye crushed her fingers to make her confess that she was plotting the emperor’s death (she wasn’t). The last ordeal nearly kills her.
- Han Xiang was also subject to the needle pricking torture.
- Conflicting Loyalty: Xiao Yan Zi when she knows about the truth behind her family’s death: her birth father was executed for treason, but then years later, she is adopted by the emperor, who essentially is the man who caused her father to be executed for treason. Oh, and she also fell in love with the emperor’s son and married him, thus really “calling the enemy her father” as the Chinese saying goes.
- Converse with the Unconscious: Er Kang with Zi Wei. It saves her life with The Power of Love. Zi Wei also sings to Er Kang while he is unconscious.
- Cool Big Sis: Xiao Yan Zi and Zi Wei to the Twelfth Prince, Yong Ji.
- The Corrupter: Rong Mo Mo to the Empress, who in turn is this to Lao Fo Ye. Rong Mo Mo could also be the Empress’s Lady Macbeth.
- To a lesser extent, Gui Mo Mo to Lao Fo Ye. By series three, Gui Mo Mo is this full-fledged to Zhi Hua.
- Costume Porn
- Crash-Into Hello: Representative of many of the series’ couples’ Meet Cute
- Qing Er and Xiao Jian definitely.
- It could be called “crashing” if you count Er Kang ordering people to arrest Zi Wei and then beating her in their first meeting.
- In Yong Qi and Xiao Yan Zi’s case, the “crashing” is more fatal as they met when he shot her with an arrow.
- Cross Dresser: Xiao Yan Zi and Zi Wei sometimes dress as male when going outside. No one is fooled.
- In fact the first time Zi Wei meets Xiao Yan Zi, Zi Wei is dressed as a man, but Xiao Yan Zi sees through it and tells her so.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Xiao Yan Zi.
- Cruel to Be Kind: Qian Long to Xiao Yan Zi when he punishes her. Also a case of Tough Love.
- Daddy's Girl: Both Xiao Yan Zi and Zi Wei are this to Qian Long.
- Deadly Decadent Court: Subverted. The series is more a portrayal of a Standard Royal Court and nowhere reaches the decadence standards set by other series taking place in the same time period and in the imperial harem. Usually, series depicting life in the imperial palace would not lack Chronic Backstabbing Disorder that would succeed and result in deaths. While the empress in this series does scheme against the protagonists, she never really succeeds and The Good Guys Always Win in the end.
- Deadpan Snarker: Xiao Yan Zi after the Empress steps on her fingers while she hides under Yong Qi’s table.
Empress: How was I to know the princess was under the table? I only accidentally stepped on your fingers.
Xiao Yan Zi: Yes, you only accidentally step on them with great force.
- Death by Adaptation: Yong Qi’s mother Yu Fei in the original series. Averted in the remake where she lives, but acts as little more than a Plot Device.
- Death by Origin Story: Xia Yu He dies, telling Zi Wei her father's identity on her deathbed, leading to Zi Wei traveling to Beijing to find him.
- Death Faked for You: Mu Sha for Er Kang.
- Distressed Damsel: Mostly Zi Wei.
- Dogged Nice Guy: Liu Qing starts out as this to Zi Wei.
- Drama Bomb: Xiao Yan Zi basically has one dropped on her in series 3 when in the space of one day she finds out that the reason her father and mother died is because of her adopted father, who is also the father of her husband, then she suffers a second miscarriage and then she is forced to allow her husband to marry another woman, to save her brother’s life. Also Disaster Dominoes.
- Dress Code: The palace has a dress code, of course, which Han Xiang refuses to follow, despite attempts from Lao Fo Ye to make her.
- Dropping the Bombshell: Poor Qian Long gets one dropped on him every series really.
- The Dutiful Son: Arguably Yong Qi returning to the palace to have a child with Xin Rong in the remake is an example of this trope, though in a misguided and twisted way.
- Dysfunctional Family: The imperial family this definitely this. Up to Eleven in the remake.
- Eiffel Tower Effect: In series 2, whenever scenes shift from outside the palace back to the palace, we get establishing shots of the golden roofs of the Forbidden City.
- Elopement: Han Xiang and Meng Dan try to seven times and failed. Finally succeeded on the eighth time with some help.
- Emergency Impersonation: Xiao Yan Zi for Zi Wei for most of series 1
- Emotionless Girl: Han Xiang to Qian Long.
- The Emperor: Obviously, Qian Long is the emperor of China at the time, and he plays a significant role in the series - is one of the main characters. He is not perfect, makes many mistakes and has a huge temper that can end in ordering Off with His Head!, but is in no way the Evil Overlord that is typical of this trope. He is actually portrayed as a Good Parents (when not being provoked)
- Establishing Character Moment: For Xiao Yan Zi it’s in the very first episode, where she was sneaking into a bride-to-be’s home to steal her wedding gifts, but then saw her attempting suicide because she didn’t want the marriage, ended up helping her instead by standing in for the bride. Hey, if she couldn’t steal from the bride’s family, she could steal from the groom’s, right?
- Eunuchs Are Evil: Averted. All the eunuchs in the series are actually very nice.
- Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fighting: Averted. Even though a majority of the characters do know martial arts, there are significant ones who don’t, like Zi Wei, Jin Suo, Han Xiang. They are usually reduced to Distressed Damsel roles.
- Everything's Better with Princesses
- Evil Is Hammy: Zhi Hua can have her hammy moments, especially when she calls Xiao Yan Zi “Sister” in a voice that is obviously used to annoy.
- Rong Mo Mo and Gui Mo Mo both play up the hammy a lot.
- Expository Hairstyle Change: When Zi Wei is acknowledged as Qian Long’s daughter, she changes from the headdress of a palace maid to that of a princess.
- Face Palm: Er Kang is the master of this trope. Made even more hilarious by the fact that the men in the Qing dynasty shave half of their head, so that the “face palm” is more like a “forehead palm”.
- Family Relationship Switcheroo: Xiao Jian is actually Xiao Yan Zi’s brother, and the person who basically caused their entire family’s death is Qian Long, who is not only Xiao Yan Zi’s adoptive father but also the father of her sworn sister and best friend, and of her fiancé.
- Feminine Women Can Cook: Played straight with Zi Wei.
The cast of series 3 subtitled Tian Shang Ren Jian (Heaven on Earth).
- Final Season Casting: Original series 3.
- Fire-Forged Friends: A major theme of the series. Characters constantly remind each other that they are “brothers” without needing to be of the same bloodline.
- First Love: Galore – Yong Qi and Xiao Yan Zi; Er Kang and Zi Wei; Han Xiang and Meng Dan. Subverted with Liu Qing and Jin Suo who were both in love with other people before they got together.
- Fish out of Water: Xiao Yan Zi is a homeless orphan who finds the etiquettes and customs of palace bizarre and impossible to follow.
- The trope is then reversed when Yong Qi, born a prince, clearly struggles to adapt to life outside the palace on the run, where concepts of right and wrong is a lot greyer than he is used to.
- Xiao Jian’s line about how his and Xiao Yan Zi’s “surnames” sound similar so they might be related. It turns out they are.
- When Xiao Jian goes into the palace with Meng Dan and Liu Qing, Liu Hong in series 2, he spends the entire scene giving Qian Long the Death Glare.
- Genki Girl: Xiao Yan Zi, lampshaded by Liu Qing.
- Gentleman and a Scholar: Er Kang, Er Tai, Yong Qi.
- To a lesser extent, also Xiao Jian, but he is portrayed more as a wandering hero.
- God Save Us From the Empress
- Good Is Not Dumb: Zi Wei mainly, but all the other “good” characters as well.
- Grande Dame: Lao Fo Ye.
- Grand Romantic Gesture: In Yong Qi’s case, this means giving up his position as a prince, his future of inheriting the throne and start a life as a commoner with the woman he loves.
- Green-Eyed Epiphany: Xiao Yan Zi has one regarding her feelings for Yong Qi.
- Green-Eyed Monster: Plenty of this: Xiao Yan Zi, Yong Qi, Zi Wei all have moments. Er Kang is too busy battling off his Unwanted Harem.
- Happily Married: Er Kang and Er Tai’s parents. Later, Er Kang and Zi Wei, complete with the coveted son and heir.
- Heel-Face Turn: The Empress and Rong Mo Mo, though in their case, it’s more like Heel-Face Revolving Door. Also Lao Fo Ye mellows out at the end of series 2.
- Heroic BSOD:
- Zi Wei when she saw Xiao Yan Zi in the parade, implying that Xiao Yan Zi had stolen her place as Qian Long’s daughter.
- Also when Er Kang dies.
- Xiao Yan Zi on Yong Qi’s wedding night to Zhi Hua.
- Yong Qi in series 3 when Xiao Yan Zi says she does not love him anymore (she doesn’t mean it though).
- Historical-Domain Character: Many, including the main ones like Emperor Qian Long, Yong Qi, Ling Fei, Lao Fo Ye and Han Xiang, but also minor characters like the officials Fu Heng, Er Min.
- Honor Before Reason: Yong Qi, who would rather be thrown into jail rather than abandon his friends, though if he had kept his mouth shut, it is likely that Qian Long would have honoured Lao Fo Ye’s wishes and been guilted by Ling Fei into not imprisoning him. An Idiot Ball moment that causes both Ling Fei and Er Kang to obviously mentally Face Palm.
- Sometimes also Zi Wei who is forgiving to a ridiculous degree, especially towards the Empress and Rong Mo Mo.
- I Can't Believe a Guy Like You Would Notice Me: Xiao Yan Zi has this exact reaction when she (finally) realises that Yong Qi is in love with her.
- Ignored Enamored Underling: Jin Suo languishes in love with Er Kang for half of series 2, but most of the time he pretends not to notice until she gives up and gets with Liu Qing instead.
- I Just Want to Be Normal: Yong Qi.
- Impractically Fancy Outfit: Xiao Yan Zi definitely thinks palace outfits are this. The first time she wears the “flower pot” shoes, she falls flat on her face.
- The impossible Qing-style headdresses also get Xiao Yan Zi and Zi Wei into trouble when they go meet Lao Fo Ye with their headdresses not pinned properly.
- Important Haircut: The Empress tries this twice (succeeding the second time in series 3) to make a point of protest against Qian Long’s actions.
- Inelegant Blubbering: Zhao Wei as Xiao Yan Zi does not cry prettily in this series. Contrast with Zi Wei's Cry Cute.
- The Ingenue: Zi Wei.
- I Want Grandkids: Yong Qi eventually faces enormous pressure regarding this.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Played with. Yong Qi would have given up Xiao Yan Zi and allowed Er Tai to woo her, in order to both allow Er Tai – his best friend – to be happy and to get Xiao Yan Zi out of an unwanted engagement.
- How happy Xiao Yan Zi would really have been with Er Tai is unclear as at the time Yong Qi has no idea how Xiao Yan Zi feels about him. But the fact that he gives her up so that his friend could be happy is pretty adorably heartwarming.
- Just Friends: Xiao Jian and Xiao Yan Zi, though Yong Qi does not believe this at first.
- Just Like Robin Hood: Xiao Yan Zi steals from the rich to give to the poor. She also comes up with ways to trick people into giving more money than they are willing to when watching her martial art performances.
- Just The Way You Are: After receiving and succumbing to pressures from his grandmother to turn Xiao Yan Zi into a lady-like princess, to disastrous effects, Yong Qi realises that he loves Xiao Yan Zi for her unconventional ways and should not try to change her, because he loves her just the way she is.
- King Bob the Nth: Averted. Chinese emperors do not name themselves after each other, each have a distinct, unique name. Having the same name, or even names that sound similar to the emperor’s personal or reign names is taboo.
- King Incognito: Qian Long was an emperor famous for his incognito inspection trips around the country.
- Yong Qi, Er Kang, Zi Wei and Xiao Yan Zi also try to keep their royal (and fugitive) status secret in series 2, not always to great success.
- Kick the Dog: Lao Fo Ye when she tortured Zi Wei nearly to death. In her defense, she thought Zi Wei was plotting to kill her son. Another case of Cruel to Be Kind.
- Knighting: Sort of. Er Tai is given a title before his marriage. Yong Qi is also eventually bestowed the title Prince Rong (Rong Qin Wang - the highest title possible for a Manchurian prince).
- The Law of Conservation of Detail: Xiao Jian’s backstory of how he has a “brother” and is out seeking to kill his family’s enemy. It turns out the “brother” is a sister – Xiao Yan Zi – and the enemy is Qian Long, suddenly making Xiao Yan Zi and Yong Qi Star-Crossed Lovers due to Feuding Families.
- Law of Inverse Fertility: Xiao Yan Zi and Yong Qi suffer this in series 3.
- All right, so she does get pregnant twice, and miscarried both times in what must be the first trimester, but that’s two short pregnancies in the space of something like three to four years. Considering they are in love, clearly trying and this is the time of no contraception, this trope definitely applies.
- Yong Qi isn’t exactly trying to get Zhi Hua pregnant (he consummated the marriage because Xiao Yan Zi felt she “owed” Zhi Hua), but it takes only one time for them to have Mian Yi.
- Like Brother and Sister: Xiao Yan Zi to practically everybody, to hilarious effects.
- Subverted when Xiao Jian and Xiao Yan Zi turn out to be actual brother and sister.
- Loveable Rogue: Xiao Yan Zi is essentially this. She steals and lies and basically does things that Zi Wei finds to be disturbing upon their first meeting, but it is all for her own survival and to help the survival of orphans and homeless old people who must depend on her for their livelihoods.
- Love at First Sight: Han Xiang to Qian Long, though not reciprocated. Or it could be described as Lust at First Sight.
- Love Hurts: And nowhere does it hurt more than in a Qiong Yao production.
- Love Makes You Evil: When we first meet Zhi Hua, she seems like an innocent enough girl (though anyone with Genre Savvy would see where we are heading). In the end, to gain Yong Qi’s attention, she slams herself against furniture while pregnant to induce a premature labour, then later rats out Xiao Yan Zi’s secret to Qian Long.
- Love-Obstructing Parents: Lao Fo Ye as the grandparent to Yong Qi in the original series. Yu Fei to Yong Qi in the remake.
- Love Triangle:
- Subverted with Yong Qi/Xiao Yan Zi/Er Tai and Zi Wei/Er Kang/Sai Ya
- Played straight with the double triangle of Jin Suo/Er Kang/Zi Wei and Qing Er/ Er Kang/Zi Wei and later Xiao Yan Zi/Yong Qi/Zhi Hua (or Xin Rong in the remake).
- Malevolent Masked Men: Assassins sent by the Empress who ambushed the gang to kill them, resulting in Er Kang nearly losing his life.
- Maligned Mixed Marriage: A subtle example of this. One of the reasons Lao Fo Ye opposes Yong Qi and Xiao Yan Zi’s marriage is because Xiao Yan Zi is presumably a Han, and therefore not worthy to marry a Manchurian prince (at least not as his principal wife, as opposed to his concubine).
- Manly Tears: Er Kang when Zi Wei is dying or lost.
- Marry for Love: Er Kang and Yong Qi both want this, despite it being very unrealistic considering their social position and duties.
- May-December Romance: Qian Long and Han Xiang, who could not be much older than Xiao Yan Zi and Zi Wei, in her mid-twenties at the oldest. Qian Long by that time was 50. Not much of a “romance” though.
- Meaningful Name: Xiao Yan Zi’s name, which means Little Swallow (the bird) is a trope in itself.
- Zhi Hua’s name literally means “knows painting”, and her most unique trait is that she is an extremely talented painter. Lampshaded by Zi Wei.
- Missing Mom: Yong Qi’s mother. Averted in the remake where she lives.
- The Missus and the Ex: Qing Er as the ex and Zi Wei as the missus to Er Kang.
- Mistaken Identity: The whole premise of the series. Hilariously leading to the scenario of Yong Qi falling in love with his “sister”.
- Multigenerational Household
- Noble Fugitive
- Nobody Thinks It Will Work: Or at least, Xiao Jian initially doesn’t think it will work between Yong Qi and Xiao Yan Zi.
- Now Let Me Carry You: Zi Wei became Er Kang’s support in series 3 when the Burmese princess Mu Sha tricked him into getting addicted to cocaine and he must cure himself of the addiction.
- Oblivious to Love: Xiao Yan Zi.
- Odd Couple: Yong Qi and Xiao Yan Zi.
- Offing the Offspring: Played with. Provoked to anger enough and Qian Long would order the execution of Zi Wei and Xiao Yan Zi. Zi Wei is actually his daughter and Xiao Yan Zi is as good as.
- Averted with Yong Qi, who, being a son, Qian Long would never kill, even without Lao Fo Ye’s protests.
- Oh, Crap: Anytime Yong Qi, Zi Wei and Er Kang have no choice but to stand back and watch Xiao Yan Zi unleash her latest shenanigan.
- Ojou: Qing Er is not Qian Long’s daughter, but is implied to be closely related to him though never made clear how. Her late father is referred to as Prince of the First Rank, which would imply he was a brother of the current emperor.
- Or her father could even be a brother of the previous emperor Yong Zheng as well. Being the fourth of over 20 sons of the emperor Kang Xi, Yong Zheng could well have been able to have a brother who was as young as his son, Qian Long.
- She is the Proper Lady variety of this trope, and is greatly favoured by the Empress Dowager, who depends greatly on her counsel. Good thing, too, because without her persuasion, Lao Fo Ye would never let Xiao Yan Zi and Zi Wei get away with so many shenanigans.
- Only a Flesh Wound: Er Kang tried to pass his wound from the Empress’s assassin off as this to a blind Zi Wei.
- Pair the Smart Ones: Er Kang and Zi Wei.
- Pair The Spare: Er Tai and Sai Ya, then Liu Qing and Jin Suo. To some extent, also Xiao Jian and Qing Er.
- Parental Favoritism: Qian Long to Yong Qi, causing jealousy from the Empress on behalf of her own son Yong Ji.
- (Grand)Parental Marriage Veto: Lao Fo Ye tries to veto the engagement between both Yong Qi and Xiao Yan Zi, and Er Kang and Zi Wei, for different reasons.
- Playing with Fire: Xiao Yan Zi and her fireworks.
- Please Don't Leave Me: Yong Qi has to say this frequently to Xiao Yan Zi.
- Please Spare Her, Huang Shang!: Once every series.
- Plot Device: Xin Rong and Yong Qi’s mother Yu Fei in the remake basically boil down to this.
- Plucky Comic Relief: Xiao Yan Zi.
- Power Floats: The martial arts tumbles and jumps.
- The Power of Love: The power of love both woke Er Kang up from a fever when he was gravely injured and also cured Zi Wei of her blindness.
- Princely Young Man: Er Kang.
- Princess for a Day: Though it’s for much longer than a day with Xiao Yan Zi.
- Put on a Bus: Er Tai after his marriage to Sai Ya at the end of series 1. This becomes a Long Bus Trip when it is talked of him coming back for his brother and best friend’s wedding but ultimately didn’t, and didn’t even come back for his brother’s funeral in series 3.
- Also Liu Qing, Liu Hong, Jin Suo are only mentioned by name in the original series 3 but never show up.
- Rags to Royalty: Both Xiao Yan Zi and Zi Wei.
- Rain of Arrows: On Er Kang in the original series 3 on the battlefield where he was presumed to have died.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Xiao Yan Zi to Qian Long, several times.
- Rebellious Princess: Who else but Xiao Yan Zi?
- Red Herring: Xiao Jian acts like he’s in love with Xiao Yan Zi for a major part of series 2, bringing out the Green-Eyed Monster in Yong Qi. In reality, he’s Xiao Yan Zi’s brother.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Xiao Yan Zi's Red Oni to Zi Wei's Blue Oni.
- Red String of Fate
- The Reveal: One per series.
- Rich People
- Roaring Rampage of Rescue: The rescuing of Xiao Yan Zi, Zi Wei and Jin Suo at the end of series 1.
- Royal Blood
- Royal Decree: Bonus for Yong Qi faking the decree to rescue Xiao Yan Zi, Zi Wei and Jin Suo out of jail.
- Royal Harem: While the series does involve the emperor having one empress and many imperial concubines, series 1 subverts this trope as it deals far more with the antics of the emperor’s (adopted) daughter.
- Series 2 contains more elements when the main plot is the elopement of an imperial concubine.
- One of the major sub-plots running through all series is both Er Kang and Yong Qi’s struggle to Marry for Love, and not succumb to social pressures and expectations by having loads of concubines. It doesn’t work out so well for Yong Qi.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Despite the fact that Yong Qi and Er Kang spend much of series 1 and 2 languishing in love and dealing with the problems that come with tortured love, in series 3 of the original they do get more responsibility and both go to war.
- Rule of Drama
- Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Xiao Yan Zi and Yong Qi.
- Scenery Porn: The remake.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right: Er Kang, Yong Qi and Er Tai rescuing Xiao Yan Zi, Zi Wei and Jin Suo at the end of series 1.
- Also freeing Han Xiang from her fate as an imperial concubine.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Played completely straight. People in the palace back in the days actually do speak like this, much to Xiao Yan Zi’s in-universe frustration.
- Expect a lot of With Due Respect when characters speak to the Emperor, Empress or Empress Dowager. Usually the respect is sincere.
- Sheltered Aristocrat: Qing Er
- Shipper on Deck: Xiao Yan Zi to Xiao Jian and Qing Er.
- "Shut Up" Kiss: Xiao Yan Zi is ranting about her own inadequacy and Yong Qi kisses her to shut her up.
- Later in series 2, Zi Wei is tearfully going on about Er Kang’s past with Qing Er and he kisses her to shut her up.
- Presumably both are a case of First Kiss for the girls.
- Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Qing Er.
- Smart People Play Chess: Or weiqi, as the case is. Explicitly shown with Qian Long and Zi Wei. We assume that Er Kang and Yong Qi are competent at the game too.
- So Bad, It's Good: An in-universe example: Most characters probably agree that Xiao Yan Zi’s poetry and "edited idioms" are this. Yong Qi even thinks they should collect them and publish a book on it.
- Spare To The Throne: The Fifteenth Prince Yong Yan – who did eventually succeed Qian Long to the throne – essentially becomes this after Qian Long’s preferred heir Yong Qi decides to give it all up for love.
- Spirited Young Lady: Xiao Yan Zi sweeps into the palace, shouts in the Emperor’s face, calls him out on his bad treatment of his concubines and generally causes chaos everywhere she goes, capturing the heart of a Prince Charming in the process.
- Star-Crossed Lovers: Yong Qi and Xiao Yan Zi are this, increasingly, due to Feuding Families. The trope is Up to Eleven in the remake.
- Star-Making Role: For Zhao Wei and Ruby Lin Xin Ru. It also revived Alec Su You Peng’s dwindling career.
- Theme Naming:
- Zi Wei and her mother Yu He are both named after flowers (the crepe myrtle and the lotus respectively.)
- Liu Qing and Liu Hong are named after colours (green/blue and red). Their surname also means “willow”.
- Zhi Hua and her sisters are named after the four main accomplishments required of the Chinese scholar gentleman qin, qi, shu, hua: playing the musical instrument qin, playing weiqi (a form of chess), calligraphy and painting.
- Chinese siblings’ name in general and Aisin-Gioro clan naming schemes in general also run with a theme. Yong Qi and all of his brothers, as well as cousins of the same generation, will have a name starting with the character Yong. Then Yong Qi and his brothers’ second name will contain the same radical: the character for Jade (玉).
- By series 3, Zi Wei has a son named Dong Er (which means East) and Xiao Yan Zi has her heart set on naming her first child Nan Er (meaning South). Eventually she did.
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: Xiao Yan Zi is the tomboy to Zi Wei’s Girly Girl.
- True Companions: The gang: Xiao Yan Zi, Zi Wei, Er Kang, Yong Qi, Jin Suo, Liu Qing, Liu Hong, Xiao Jian, Er Tai...
- Truth in Television:
- Qian Long and Yong Qi’s relationship, leading to Yong Qi’s title of Prince Rong granted in series 3.
- Qian Long’s incognito inspection trips.
- Unwanted Harem: Yong Qi in regard to Zhi Hua (or Xin Rong in the remake). Er Kang in regard to…every other girl who happens to be interested in him in each series. Both because they interfere with their Official Couple status with Xiao Yan Zi and Zi Wei respectively.
- Unwanted Spouse: Zhi Hua is this to Yong Qi.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Based on a legend about a commoner girl who was adopted by the emperor Qian Long. However it is unlikely that the girl in question was in any way like Xiao Yan Zi.
- Walking Disaster Area: Xiao Yan Zi.
- What the Hell, Hero?:
- Qian Long, many times when he acts like a jerk to his children. Also when he forgets about a woman he supposedly loved.
- The entire drama of Xiao Yan Zi losing a blind Zi Wei in the crowd because she got caught up in a weiqi match.
- Xiao Yan Zi, obviously.
- But also Er Kang who gets murderous because his Berserk Button is pressed and at first spends more time raging at Xiao Yan Zi than finding Zi Wei.
- Also Yong Qi, who seems to show little to no panic regarding his blind sister going missing. Granted, Er Kang is trying to kill Xiao Yan Zi, but still.
- Wedding Day: The double wedding of Yong Qi and Xiao Yan Zi & Er Kang and Zi Wei, where Hilarity Ensues and also there are a couple of Golden Moment.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Lao Fo Ye is meant to be this. The Empress is too, sometimes, when not being egged on by Rong Mo Mo.
- Wacky Marriage Proposal: Liu Qing’s proposal to Jin Suo.
- Wicked Stepmother: The Empress until her Heel-Face Turn (twice!) at the end of series 1 and series 2. Averted with Ling Fei and Han Xiang.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: Both Xiao Yan Zi and Zi Wei in their own ways.
- Willing Suspension of Disbelief: A lot of this is necessary in this series.
- The character of the emperor Qian Long is generally a lot nicer than historical records of him as an emperor, and also unlike any portrayal of him so far and since in other historical series or films.
- It takes this trope to believe that Yong Qi and Xiao Yan Zi could overcome all the obstacles to their relationship and are allowed to marry at all. Yong Qi both in history (before his Untimely Death) and in the drama was written as an ideal candidate for the throne one day, and Xiao Yan Zi is…not consort material.
- The fact that Xiao Yan Zi still gets to keep her head after wreaking havoc in the palace so much and lying to the emperor (which was a serious crime at the time) so many times invokes this trope.
- Wuxia: Has certain elements of this, especially after with the addition of Xiao Jian, a classic wandering hero archetype of the genre, complete with a Cool Sword.
- Xiao Yan Zi, I Am Your Brother: Wham Line from Xiao Jian to Xiao Yan Zi.
- You Have Three Months: Lao Fo Ye gives Yong Qi this long to turn Xiao Yan Zi into a proper princess.
- You Never Did That for Me: When Yong Yan was born, the Empress complained to Rong Mo Mo that Qian Long never acted that happy when she gave birth to Yong Ji.
- Young Love Versus Old Hate: Played with considering Xiao Yan Zi’s father allegedly hating the Qing dynasty.