The Story of Yanxi Palace: fans made to pass South China Sea sovereignty test to watch new episodes of Chinese drama on Vietnamese pirate video site

Site gives access to popular drama if viewers choose the ‘correct’ answer to a quiz on the contested Spratly and Paracel islands

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 August, 2018, 2:38pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 August, 2018, 11:42pm

A Vietnamese video website has put the patriotism of China’s drama junkies to the test with a chance to see the latest episodes of the hottest Chinese period piece – with a catch.

Vietnamese site Bom Tan this week offered viewers the most recent instalments of The Story of Yanxi Palace, a hugely popular tale of Qing dynasty (1636-1912) palace intrigue, but only if they could “correctly” answer a pop-up quiz with a question about the Spratlys and the Paracels, chains of contested islands in the South China Sea.

To get access to the episodes – which are not yet available on iQiyi, the series’ official Chinese video streaming platform – viewers must select “Vietnam” from the multiple choice answers to the question: “Which country do the Paracels and Spratly Islands belong to?”

Back-stabbing concubines draw record-breaking 530 million viewers

The other options are China, the Philippines and Japan.

The Spratlys are claimed by China, Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia, while sovereignty over the Paracels is contested by China, Vietnam and Taiwan.

The Story of Yanxi Palace is a 70-episode period drama about back-stabbing imperial concubines, and is co-produced by iQiyi and Huanyu Film.

It follows the adventures of a quick-witted maidservant who battles the concubines to rise through the ranks, and has attracted a cumulative 11.2 billion views on iQiyi since its release last month.

The first 54 episodes are available for free but iQiyi subscribers can see up to episode 62, with the finale to be released next week.

Bom Tan provides an array of shows from throughout Asia, including the newest and most popular hits from China. It is one of a number of streaming sites showing pirated versions of the Chinese drama.

When the quiz came to light online on Monday, the Vietnamese platform was allowing fans to see up to episode 57 of the Chinese series while iQiyi was only showing the first 48.

The series appeared to have been removed from Bom Tan by Thursday morning.

“For any copyright issues, please email us so that we can remove the movie immediately,” a notice on the site stated in Vietnamese.

But the quiz remained in place.

China’s Saturday Night Live: censored or just not very funny?

The quiz became the focus of attention after a Chinese internet user posted screenshots of the series with a translation of the sovereignty question on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service, on Monday.

“[The Vietnamese website] pirated Chinese TV shows to begin with, then they raise this question that’s especially disputable to a Chinese audience. Please help spread the news so that more can know their ugliness,” the user wrote in a post shared more than 20,000 times.

Various respondents claimed to be offended by the quiz, including a Chinese university student studying in Australia who identified herself as Luna.

“Matters of national sovereignty are [a matter] of principle,” Luna said.

The website’s administrators did not respond to requests for comment.

In an online statement on Monday, Huanyu Film threatened legal action if sites airing pirated versions of the drama did not pull the content.

iQiyi did not respond immediately to requests for comment.