- Drama Title: Story of Kunning Palace
- Also Known As: 宁安如梦, Peaceful as a Dream, Kun Ning, Ning An Ru Meng
- Director: Chu Yui Bun, Francis Nam, Gu Zhi Wei
- Cast: Bai Lu, Zhang Ling He, Wang Xing Yue, Zhou Jun Wei, Liu Xie Ning
- Genres: Historical, Romance, Drama, Fantasy
- Number of Episodes: 38+1 extra
- Date of Release: Nov 7, 2023
- Original Network: iQiyi
- Where to Watch: iQiyi and WeTV
- Adapted from: web novel “A Lady’s Tranquility by Shi Jing”
Dear readers, I was thrilled when I saw that The Story of Kunning Palace drama was aired on my favorite platforms and can’t wait to write the review about it. The Story of Kunning Palace was a Chinese romance drama, with 38 episodes and 1 extra episode, released in November 2023. I’ve been waiting for this drama for soooo long, but when it finally aired, I decided not to take a peek at all. I waited for the drama until the last episode aired before I watched it in one swoop. That way, I wouldn’t have to wait for new episodes to be released. Without further ado, this is my review of “Story of Kunning Palace”.
Story of Kunning Palace Synopsis
Jiang Xue Ning woke up from sleep and found that she had gone back to her 18-year-old self. That was when the Yan family was still alive and she had not yet ascended the phoenix throne as Shen Jie’s Empress. Jiang Xue Ning realized she had been reborn with a chance to atone for her past sins.
In her previous life, she was an ambitious woman driven by jealousy. She became an empress by trampling on those who loved and hated her. However, after experiencing the agony of death, she did not want to go down the same path again.
In order to escape her terrible fate, Jiang Xue Ning decided to stay away from the palace. Unfortunately, fate still brought her to the palace. As Princess Le Yang’s study companion, Jiang Xue Ning had to encounter the person she feared the most once again.
Grand Preceptor Xie Wei is a highly respected imperial teacher and a powerful official in the court. He has the emperor’s trust and serves as the emperor’s right-hand man. Xie Wei and Jiang Xue Ning realized they shared the same goal to save the Yan family from the execution ground and to subdue the Xue family.
Two persons, one with a tragic past life and the other with a mysterious background. One seeks redemption, while the other is consumed by hatred and revenge. Together, they faced numerous challenges and embarked on an unprecedented journey, uncertain of what the future holds.
Story of Kunning Palace Review
Story of Kunning Palace was on my watchlist for a long time. I was a keen reader of this kind of rebirth, reincarnation, and transmigration novels. So naturally I would not miss this one. I have been fascinated with this kind of trope ever since I saw Bu Bu Jing Xin (Scarlet Heart) drama years ago.
I thought that the Story of Kunning Palace would be a simple story about Jiang Xue Ning’s struggle to turn over a new leaf, and her love life that revolves around three men, Yan Lin, Xie Wei, and Zhang Zhe. It did sound like a great romance drama, isn’t it? But, nah! The heavy political theme overshadowed Jiang Xue Ning’s romantic relationship with her men.
The story was dark and gloomy, It was not wrong to say that this is the story of revenge and redemption, laced with betrayal, jealousy, and hatred.
Nevertheless, the scarce romantic scenes added a soft layer to the story. And I couldn’t hate it, even though I was a romance junkie who wanted a romantic scene at every turn.
The story started at a good pace. It may have slowed down in the middle, but then the romance increased along with the revelation of Xie Wei’s mysterious background.
As Jiang Xue Ning was a person with a past life, the story was told in flashbacks. Darker tones were used to distinguish between past and present scenes, and every flashback was told from Jiang Xue Ning’s point of view. The flashbacks explained why Jiang Xue Ning made her decisions in the present.
The cinematography of this drama was praise-worthy. The camera moved smoothly and shot at the right angle. Xie Wei’s character was often filmed from a higher angle than other characters, so we could see his head always tilted down, eyes squinting and lips forming a straight line. Zhang Ling He’s villainous character was especially shocking.
However, when he put on a friendly facade, the camera was level with his head. I also liked the fact that Bai Lu, Zhang Ling He, and Wang Xing Yue used their own voices in this drama. Bai Lu’s husky voice complemented her matured character.
The costumes were gorgeous. All ladies wore tasseled hairpins that moved nicely with the movement of their heads. However, I feel that Jiang Xue Hui’s hairpins were the most unflattering.
Regarding the characters in this drama, the main characters were well-written, but not the supporting characters like You Fang Yin, Lyu Xian, and Jiang Xue Hui. Each of them played an important role in the lives of Jiang Xue Ning and Xie Wei. You Fang Yin served as Jiang Xue Ning’s maidservant during her reign as empress.
In her second life, Jiang Xue Ning saved You Fang Yin’s life as repayment for her kindness in the previous life. Whereas Lyu Xian is an interesting character whose job is to earn money for Xie Wei’s endeavor. Jiang Xue Hui is Jiang Xue Ning’s elder sister and Wan Niang’s real daughter. In a past life, Jiang Xue Hui would have become the empress if Jiang Xue Ning had not stolen Shen Jie from her.
I thought these characters and some others were important. Nevertheless, the plot was too complex to fit into the limited number of episodes, so it seems that the director and the scriptwriter had to sacrifice some things.
I have not read the novel Story of Kunning Palace because it was not fully translated into English on the Internet. I cannot read or speak Chinese, so I guess I have to pray for a miracle. LOL. I am really curious about how the author portrayed the characters in the novel.
I enjoy stories with some comedy in them. In this drama, Xie Wei’s bodyguard and assistants, Jian Shu and Lyu Xian, are portrayed as silly people, which adds some laughter. It brought a breath of fresh air into the somber atmosphere. However, they could not match Liang duo, Ling Bu Yi’s personal guards in Love Like the Galaxy. They surely made a great comedy in the drama.
I love how Bai Lu was perfect for the role of Jiang Xue Ning. She had a mature countenance, completely different from the young noble ladies in this drama. Jiang Xue Ning used to be the evil empress who was blinded by ambition and went through many experiences.
Therefore, Bai Lu’s mature look was perfect for this role. Initially, I found her acting a little rigid in the early episodes. Later, I realized it was because her character, Jiang Xue Ning, had just ended her life as an empress and needed some time to adapt to the circumstances.
An empress had to conceal her emotions and thoughts. Constantly maintaining a calm and composed demeanor was her everyday job. However, as the drama progressed, Jiang Xue Ning was getting used to her present life, so I could see some emotions begin to appear on her face.
I enjoy watching Bai Lu’s dramas at this end of the year. After finishing Story of Kunning Palace, I jump straight into Only For Love drama. Her latest drama where she teamed up with Dylan Wang. The story got me hooked just like the Story of Kunning Palace. Bai Lu really has a versatile face. She donned the period costume as good as the modern wool jackets.
My favorite character in this drama is Yan Lin and my least favorite is Xie Wei. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy reading about yandere characters, like the dominating CEOs in novels, manga, and comics. They are often described as handsome yet cold and distant.
They rarely fall in love with the opposite sex, but when they do, the love is intense, almost leading to obsession. However, when they turned insane, they were absolutely terrifying. They were dangerous and you could see the warning sign all over their bodies.
Xie Wei was protective and caring towards Jiang Xue Ning. But he became tensed and frightened when he got angry or jealous. I would advise Jiang Xue Ning to be cautious of handsome men who would shout at her whenever they got angry.
Therefore, dear readers… Be careful of such characters. Yanderes like Xie Wei are only good if they are fictional characters. Use your own judgment in real life.
On the other hand, I like Yan Lin because even though his character was two-dimensional, he got all the good things a person could have. He was good-looking, skilled in martial arts so that he could protect you, he was funny and playful, he had a good relationship with his family, and most importantly, he was loyal.
After thinking it over, I chose to ship Jiang Xue Ning and Yan Lin instead of Jiang Xue Ning and Xie Wei. And what about Zhang Zhe? Sorry, he’s just not my type…
This drama was born from the creative minds of the directors, Chui Yu Bun, Francis Nam, and Gu Zhi Wei. Chui Yu Bun and Gu Zhi Wei were the men behind The Long Ballad and The Blue Whisper drama. While Francis Nam impressed me with The Mystic Nine.
Our main roles also did a good job with the acting. Zhang Ling He’s portrayal of the ruthless Xie Wei was exceptional. Wang Xing Yue also did a good job, although I preferred his acting in The Scent of Time. This is the first Zhou Jun Wei drama I’ve seen, and I enjoyed how he played Yan Lin as if the character was made for him.
I might need to check out his other dramas as well. I am currently watching Liu Xie Ning (and Bai Lu)’s drama, Only for Love. Liu Xie Ning looks very good in a modern outfit. But I prefer her as Shen Zhi Yi, a strong and mindful princess.
“Revenge is a dish best served cold”. -Klingon proverb-
The first thought that came to my mind after watching this drama was this line from the Star Trek movie. It took a while for me to figure out the meaning. Why wait for revenge? Then it dawned on me that you must have a plan if you want your revenge to succeed.
Most of the time, waiting would multiply the hatred and pain. So when the time for revenge comes, it will hit harder than the original pain. That’s what Xie Wei did. His goal was to bring down the conceited and powerful Xue family.
Xie Wei had a deep hatred for the Xue family. He carefully planned his revenge. He climbs his way up with one objection only: to subdue the Xue family. It was not an easy task, because the Xue family had been a dominant force for a long time.
The Empress Dowager and Duke of Xue, Xue Yuan, were siblings and both of them were cunning people. Unfortunately, the Emperor was not in good condition. His health had been deteriorating for a very long time and most people thought (in their minds) that the Emperor was dead.
The Xue family had a long-time hatred for the Yan family. Both families held immense power. The Xue family was strongest in court while the Yan family had the largest army in the nation. The conflict between the Duke of Xue and the Marquis of Yan began 20 years ago due to Lord Pingnan’s rebellion.
That was after the late Emperor had passed away. Lord Pingnan was defeated in the power struggle and exiled to Jinling. He refused to give up and secretly raised his own private army to invade the capital.
Fortunately, the emperor was not in the palace, so he was saved. However, the Empress, Crown Prince, and members of the royal family, including Xue Yuan’s wife, Madam Yan, and her son, Xue Ding Fei, were still in the palace.
Lord Pingnan sealed the city gate and searched for the crown prince among all the children in the city and took them as hostages. However, the crown prince was nowhere to be found among them. Lord Pingnan was furious and demanded the empress to hand over the crown prince within three days or he would kill all the hostages.
Then, the 7-year-old Xue Ding Fei pretended to be the Crown Prince and bravely faced Lord Pingnan. Unfortunately, Lord Pingnan found out his identity and ordered his guards to kill the hostages. He also killed Xue Ding Fei.
Afterward, Xue Yuan and Yan Mu joined forces to reclaim the capital. As they entered the capital, Lord Pingnan managed to escape and burn all the bodies to cover his traces. Yan Mu and his elder sister, Madam Yan, were devastated.
The only thing left from Xue Ding Fei was his jade amulet. After that incident, Madam Yan divorced her husband, Xue Yuan, and returned to the Yan Mansion. Later, she passed away due to illness and grief. The relationship between the Xue family and the Yan family eventually turned sour.
Xue Yuan had set his sights on the Yan family’s military power, and he would do anything to make it his own. With the help of Empress Dowager, Xue Yuan tried to tackle Yan Mu and put an end to him and his only son, Yan Lin.
Yan Mu was aware of Xue Yuan’s intentions and had taken precautions against him. However, the military strength in his possession was a double-edged sword. It safeguarded the country, but it also made the emperor become wary of him. However, the loyalty of the Yan family was unquestionable.
The only problem was, would the emperor believe in their loyalty, or would he choose to listen to Xue Yuan’s words? Given that the Xue family was the emperor’s maternal family, and Xue Yuan was the emperor’s uncle.
The Xue family prepared for their future as the emperor’s health declined. The Empress was not from the Xue family, and she had yet to give birth to a royal heir. Without an heir, when the Emperor died, the throne would fall to his younger brother, Shen Jie.
To ensure that power remained in the Xue family, the Empress Dowager and Xue Yuan planned to marry his daughter Xue Shu to Shen Jie. However, their plan failed when Noble Consort Qin became pregnant. They had tried to kill the baby, but they failed. Did they give up? Hell, no!
And the one who was trapped in the power struggle was Jiang Xue Ning. The former empress who killed herself to save the life of the man she once loved.
Wan Niang was a brave person, and Jiang Xue Ning learned to be like her. Jiang Xue Ning was never afraid to offend people, she knew what she wanted and how to get it. Her fiery temper had made her stand out among all the noble ladies in the capital. And it was the reason why Yan Lin was so fixated on her.
In her previous life, Jiang Xue Ning’s evil deeds were driven by her ambition and jealousy. She had hated Jiang Xue Hui for living the life that should have been hers for years. She paved her way to the phoenix throne by scheming against Jiang Xue Hui and Shen Jie.
In the process, she abandoned Yan Lin, who genuinely loved her. After entering the palace, Jiang Xue Ning met Zhang Zhe. She immediately fell in love with him. However, Zhang Zhe was an upright man. Although he also likes her, it is considered taboo to have a close relationship with the empress.
During her time as empress, Jiang Xue Ning was domineering because Shen Jie dotes on her. She also interfered in politics and faced criticism from the court members. Jiang Xue Ning would do everything to keep her position, including seducing Xie Wei, Zhang Zhe, and Yan Lin.
After her rebirth, Jiang Xue Ning tried her best to save the people who suffered at her hands. She worked hard to save Yan Lin and his family from a death sentence. Jiang Xue Ning rescued You Fang Yin from her own family and saved Shen Zhi.
Yi from the horrible fate of dying in a faraway country after being forced into an alliance marriage. Jiang Xue Ning strived to atone for her crime, turn over a new leaf, and escape the terrible fate that haunted her life.
Story of Kunning Palace finished with a happy ending albeit with some unexpected deaths in the end. Nevertheless, I felt satisfied with the ending. And what more to come, a special episode about Jiang Xue Ning and Xie Wei’s happy day. I could not ask for more than this. You can read about the ending here at Story of Kunning Palace ending explained post
Jiang Xue Ning
Jiang Xue Ning (played by Bai Lu) is the legitimate daughter of the Jiang family. She was born from Minister Jiang’s legal wife, Lady Meng. However, a concubine of Minister Jiang, Wan Niang, switched her daughter, Jiang Xue Hui, with Jiang Xue Ning. Then she took Jiang Xue Ning to the village.
From that time on, Jiang Xue Ning became a village girl, while Jiang Xue Hui lived luxuriously in the capital. Four years ago, at the tender age of 14, Jiang Xue Ning returned to the Jiang family. As a teenager, she lived in a state of confusion and ended up offending many people. To others, Jiang Xue Ning was a wild and unruly village girl. The only one in the family who treated her well was her father.
As a villain, Jiang Xue Ning had the typical qualities of a villain. Being reborn did not change her into a gentle, loving, and composed woman. Instead, she maintained her villainous traits. To put it bluntly, Jiang Xue Ning was good at manipulation. She remembered her past, so she targeted the people who could be useful to her, such as Zhou Yin Zhi and the eunuch Zheng.
Jiang Xue Ning is a conniving woman in both her past and present lives. Previously, she schemed to replace Jiang Xue Hui and made Shen Jie believe that she was the one who met him outside a temple. By replacing her sister, Jian Xue Ning was able to sit on the phoenix throne as Shen Jie’s empress. In her current life, Jiang Xue Ning uses her conniving skills to save You Fang Yin, punishing You Yue and arranging for Jiang Xue Hui to be with Shen Jie.
Although Jiang Xue Ning is a cruel person and will do anything to accomplish her goals, as a retired villainess, she chooses to make decisions based on her conscience. For example, is her decision to leave Zhang Zhe. She liked him very much in her previous and current lives. Jiang Xue Ning could choose to stay with Zhang Zhe. But she realized that she had caused him a lot of pain. Therefore, she should just forget about him.
One thing that she failed to see, whether it was in her previous life or in the present, was Xie Wei’s affection for her. In her past life, Jiang Xue Ning only loved Zhang Zhe and was engrossed in her intrigues. Whereas in the present life, her fear of Xie Wei made her miss his longing gaze.
Xie Wei (played by Zhang Ling He) with the courtesy name Ju’an is the imperial teacher of the Crown Prince. He was known as the Grand Preceptor Xie and also held a position as an official in the court. He first met Jiang Xue Ning four years ago after Jiang Boyou sent him to accompany Jiang Xue Ning on her way to the capital.
It was then when Jiang Xue Ning witnessed Xie Wei losing his mind and going berserk when they were caught in a heavy snowstorm. Xie Wei was sensitive to cold. He couldn’t stay in the cold for a long time without getting sick and having another episode of madness.
This incident caused him to have mixed feelings about Jiang Xue Ning. He was distrustful of her, but he was also grateful because Jiang Xue Ning helped him and did not leave him even though the situation was unfavorable for her.
Under normal circumstances, Xie Wei is a taciturn person. He has always had a cold and smug expression on his face under the pretense of his calm and composed attitude. Xie Wei could be ruthless and rude, but he was kind to those who were close to him. With his sharp mind and amazing ability to predict and read people’s nature, Xie Wei worked his way up to his position and gained the trust of the emperor.
Xie Wei harbored a deep hatred for the Xue family, especially Xue Yuan. He also had a deep bond with the Yan family, although he kept it a secret, even from the Yan family itself. Thus, it was a matter of fact that Xie Wei would do anything to help the Yan family out of their predicament.
Xie Wei’s attachment to the Yan family also made him suspicious of Jiang Xue Ning’s intention of being close to Yan Lin. Although, most of the suspicion came from jealousy… LOL!
Xie Wei was obsessed with Qin and a very good Qin player. So listening to Jiang Xue Ning’s play was tantamount to torture for him.
Zhang Zhe (played by Wang Xing Yue) is a most upright, honest, filial, and hardworking person. He has a calm and serene appearance that makes others feel comfortable when they are near him. Despite growing up in poverty, Zhang Zhe values family and honors his parents.
But behind his upright and strict personality, there was a sad story. His father was once wrongly accused and imprisoned. This incident traumatized Zhang Zhe’s mother. She made him promise that he would always be an upright person. Zhang Zhe kept his promise. He worked hard for his position in the Ministry of Justice. He lived in a small house with his mother, without any servants or maids.
Zhang Zhe’s mother passed away after Zhang Zhe was arrested. Until her last breath, Mrs. Zhang was unaware of the fact that Zhang Zhe’s imprisonment was just an act to lure the rebels.
Throughout the years, Zhang Zhe never had feelings for any woman. He refused to agree to the marriage proposal with Yao Xi even though his co-worker mentioned that the marriage would be beneficial to him. However, Zhang Zhe became attracted to Jiang Xue Ning after they met at the Empress Dowager’s palace.
Yan Lin ‘s personality made me suffer from Second Lead Syndrome. He was so charming that I wanted to bring him home. It pained me to see him selflessly prioritizing Jiang Xue Ning’s well-being and disregarding his own feelings.
As the young viscount of Yongyi Mansion, Yan Lin (played by Zhou Jun) was expected to be the next general of the Yan Army. Yet, he had a carefree and playful demeanor like any youngster from a wealthy family. Yan Lin was a sweet, funny, caring, and devoted person. His feelings for Jiang Xue Ning were clear for all of us to see.
Yan Lin used to think that his life was simple, and his only problem was how to get Jiang Xue Ning to marry him. But after his father was accused of colluding with Lord Pingnan, his priority shifted. He was no longer affectionate towards Jiang Xue Ning because he feared that their closeness would drag Jiang Xue Ning and her family down. Yan Lin realized that her life was more important than his feelings.
Although he acts indifferent, Yan Lin still keeps Jiang Xue Ning under his watchful eye. He even asked Xie Wei to take care of Jiang Xue Ning, not realizing that his request made Xie Wei jealous.
Shen Zhi Yi (Princess Le Yang)
Shen Zhi Yi (played by Liu Xie Ning) was born into the royal family as the younger sister of the emperor. Shen Zhi Yi lived in a sheltered environment all her life. She was innocent and naive, but stubborn.
Shen Zhi Yi met Jiang Xue Ning at the You family banquet where Jiang Xue Ning drew a beautiful ornament to cover the scar on her face. She was doing this because Jiang Xue Ning did not want to become Shen Zhi Yi’s enemy as she did in her past life.
Jiang Xue Ning also advised Shen Zhi Yi to stop caring too much about her scar in public. It could make people aware of her weakness. In fact, Shen Zhi Yi got the scar during Lord Pingnan’s rebellion 20 years ago. The rebellion was successfully quelled. Therefore, Jing Xue Ning told Shen Zhi Yi that she should feel proud because the scar was proof of a nation’s glory.
Although as a royal family member, Shen Zhi Yi appeared arrogant, when she was with Jiang Xue Ning, she looked like an ordinary girl. Shen Zhi Yi had a good relationship with his brother Shen Jie. They often saved each other from awkward situations, especially when it involved their mother, the Empress Dowager.
Xue Shu (played by Ye Xi Yue) is the only daughter of Xue Yuan. She had a younger biological brother, Xue Ye. Despite sharing the same father, Xue Shu and Xue Ding Fei have different mothers. Madam Yan divorced Xue Yuan after Xue Ding Fei’s death. Three months after Madam Yan’s death, Xue Yuan remarried and Xue Shu was born seven months later.
From a young age, Xue Shu was prepared for her role as a future empress. The Empress Dowager and Xue Yuan have chosen her as Shen Jie’s wife. Knowing that her family was prominent and that she had a powerful patron, Xue Shu grew up as an arrogant person.
Yet, with her duplicitous nature, she appeared calm and gentle, but on the inside, she was cunning and cruel. Xue Shu had developed a strong affection for Shen Jie, so she was jealous of Jiang Xue Ning and Jiang Xue Hui. Similar to other villains – ahem, Jiang Xue Ning – Xue Shu would go to any lengths to fulfill her desires and ambitions.
How do you think of this review? Story of Kunning Palace was a good drama that you should not miss. The writing was great, and the chemistry between the characters was very good. The storyline might be too intense for those who prefer to focus on the romance. Yet, if you were patient enough to wait, it was all paid in the end.
I would recommend this drama to those who enjoy Nirvana in Fire drama. The plot of revenge and redemption was so well written that it would be a pity if you missed it. And if you do decide to watch this drama, be prepared to miss your bedtime. Because once you start, you may never stop. So, sit tight and enjoy the ride. Hope this Story of Kunning Palace drama review helps. Happy watching!