Recasting Magnificent Century For A Chinese Drama

Muhteşem Yüzyıl or The Magnificent Century is one of the most popular soap operas in Turkey. It was released in 2011 and is a Turkish historical fiction television series. It is based on the life of Ottoman Sultan Suleiman, the Magnificent, the longest-reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, and his wife Hürrem Sultan, a slave girl who became the first Ottoman Haseki Sultan. It also shines a light on the era known as the Sultanate of Women.

As a Muslim, I would like to request everyone not to judge Muslim culture by this drama. It’s a fictional series, and it misled the true historical story to an extreme level. Sultan Süleymān is a proud name for Turkey and all Muslims. When the series was first broadcast, it was criticized heavily by religious and nationalist Turks, who are the real Ottoman-era fans in contrast to the highly secular cast and crew of the production.

Female costumes are not relevant to Ottoman history. All royal ladies in the series are dressed in western attires, exposing their hair and chest to other men, something unimaginable in that era in the palace of the Islamic Caliph. I love this show a lot, but I will never ignore this fact. This is such a shameful thing for a Muslim woman who actually follows Islamic rules and regulations by heart. It’s very important to me, and that’s why I thought non-Muslims shouldn’t misunderstand this at all. The dressing of women was totally fictional. But other than this, this show is really good and a must-watch. Thanks for understanding.

Basic Words

Sultan = King

Sultana/Sultan = Queen/Wife or the mother of a prince or princess. But a queen or wife of a Sultan or mother of a prince or princess also can be called a sultan. This isn’t the same level of respect as a king, but it shows respect, just like calling them a queen or a princess.

Valide Sultana = Valide Sultan (Ottoman Turkish: والده سلطان‎, lit. ‘mother sultan’) was the title held by the “legal mother” of a ruling sultan of the Ottoman Empire. The title was first used in the 16th century for Hafsa Sultan (died 1534), consort of Selim I (r. 1512 – 1520) and mother of Suleiman, the Magnificent (r. 1520 – 1566), superseding the previous title of mehd-i ulya (“cradle of the great”). Normally, the living mother of a reigning sultan held this title. Mothers who died before their sons’ accession to the throne were never bestowed with the title of valide sultan. In special cases, grandmothers and stepmothers of a reigning sultan assumed the title valide sultan. The word valide (والده) literally means ‘mother’ in Ottoman Turkish, from Arabic wālida.

Sehzade = In Ottoman royalty, the title şehzade designates male descendants of sovereigns in the male line. In English: A Prince. Every son of a sultan is called sehzade.

Ottoman Princess/Sultan = There is no feminine equivalent of şehzade or special title for princesses in Ottoman royalty. In Persian, shahzade is used for both male and female descendants of a monarch. By the beginning of the 16th century, Ottoman princesses held the title of sultan after their given name. So to avoid confusion, for the Princess I will use Sultan, but besides that, Ottoman Princess also will be included.

Pasha = or Paşa (Ottoman Turkish: پاشا‎; Turkish: paşa; Albanian: Pashë; Arabic: باشا‎), in older works sometimes anglicized as bashaw, was a higher rank in the Ottoman political and military system, typically granted to governors, generals, dignitaries, and others. As an honorary title, Pasha, in one of its various ranks, is similar to a British peerage or knighthood.
Kalfa = (Turkish for ‘apprentice, assistant master’) was a general term in the Ottoman Empire for the women attendants and supervisors in service in the imperial palace. Novice girls had to await promotion to the rank of kalfa. Officially slaves or service girls, these women—depending on their rank—could wield considerable authority and influence in their duties and were generally treated with much respect by lower-ranking attendants in the harem as well as by members of the imperial family.

Hatun = In the Ottoman period, the term hatun was used as an honorific for women, roughly equivalent to the English term lady.

Agha = Agha, also Aga (Ottoman Turkish: آغا‎), is an honorific title for a civilian or military officer, or often part of such title, and was placed after the name of certain civilian or military functionaries in the Ottoman Empire. At the same time, some court functionaries were entitled to the agha title.

Harem = The Imperial Harem (Ottoman Turkish: حرم همايون‎, Harem-i Hümâyûn) of the Ottoman Empire was the Ottoman sultan’s harem – composed of the wives, servants (both female slaves and eunuchs), female relatives and the sultan’s concubines – occupying a secluded portion (seraglio) of the Ottoman imperial household. 

 The Chinese Cast

  Main Roles

Zhang  Zi Yi as Valide Sultan

Hafsa Sultan was the wife of Selim I and the first valide sultan of the Ottoman Empire as the mother of Suleiman, the Magnificent. During the period between her son’s enthronement in 1520 and her death in 1534, she was one of the most influential persons in the Ottoman Empire. The term Valide Sultan started with Hafsa Sultan. She is one of the most powerful characters in this drama. To me, Valide Sultan was the perfect lady of that era. She tried her best to keep her family together. 

I think Zhang Zi Yi is the perfect person to play her role. Zhang Zi Yi has played in historical dramas as a strong female lead so I chose her for this character.

Vengo Gao as Sulṭān Süleymān

Suleiman I, commonly known as Suleiman, the Magnificent in the West and Suleiman, the Lawgiver in his realm, was the tenth and longest-reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1520 until his death in 1566. Under his administration, the Ottoman caliphate ruled over at least 25 million people. Sulṭān Süleymān is the main actor in the whole series. The story revolves around him. His character was strong, honest, truthful, brave, and had the desire to achieve his dreams. 

So the actor who is going to act his character definitely has to be perfect. And for me, Vengo Gao is the best choice. Their visuals look similar to me.

Supporting Role

Wu Jin Yan as Gülfem Hatun

Gülfem Hatun is a concubine of Sulṭān Süleymān and also the mother of his first son. But unfortunately, their son died right after being born. After that incident, she lost her position in Sulṭān Süleymān’s heart and chamber. But still, she was a respected woman. She was close with Hafsa Sultan (Mother of Sulṭān Süleymān) and the best friend of Hatice Sultan (Younger Sister of Sulṭān Süleymān). In the show, Gülfem Hatun was shown as a decent woman.

Now, I choose Wu Jin Yan as she looks innocent, and Gülfem Hatun’s character was the most innocent character in the whole show. 

Main Role

Tiffany Tang as Mahidevran Sultan

Mahidevran Sultan is also a concubine of Sulṭān Süleymān and the mother of Şehzade Mustafa, the eldest surviving son of the reigning Sultan, who was first in line to ascend to the imperial throne. She held a prominent position in the harem of her son in Manisa, while Hürrem Sultan became Suleiman’s favorite. 

Talking about why I chose Tiffany Tang, it’s because their facial features kinda seem similar to me.

Supporting Role

Gülnezer Bextiyar as Ayşe Hatun

She is a fictional character. She was a concubine of Sultan Süleymān and a rival to Hurrem Sultan. Before Hurrem arrived in the harem, Ayse Hatun went to Sultan Süleymān’s chamber. She is really beautiful, but Hurrem snatched her position in a day. 

For this character, I think Gülnezer Bextiyar will be the best because I think they look similar. 

Main Role

Fan Bing Bing as Hurrem Sultan

Her character description will be totally based on the show. In history, she is known as a respected woman. I can write a whole book about how much I hate this woman. She did everything to hold her position, to get more power and all, but there is something called moral values, so I just can’t help but hate her.

Hürrem Sultan (1502 – 1558), also known as Alexandra Lisowska, was the favorite, chief consort, and legal wife of Süleiman, the Magnificent. She was the mother of his five children: Şehzade Mehmed, Mihrimah Sultan, Şehzade Selim, Şehzade Bayezid, and Şehzade Çihangir. She was the second “Haseki Sultan” (chief consort of the Sultan), while Mahidevran Sultan was the first. She achieved power and influenced the politics of the Ottoman Empire through her husband, playing an active role in state affairs. Hurrem Sultan was the main attraction of the whole show. She is a character that receives the same amount of love and hate (or maybe more love than hate). So as you can see, she is a strong character. 

To fill her shoes, I needed the most famous actress in China. And after giving it a lot of thought, I chose Fan Bing Bing. She is so beautiful, and her visuals are perfect. This is the line that attracted me the most to select her:

Love is temporary 
but power lasts forever 

Supporting Roles

Crystal Zhang as Princess Isabella Fortuna

Isabel de la Cerda, also known as Isabel de la Cerda Pérez de Guzmán, was the only surviving daughter of Luis de la Cerda and his first wife Leonor de Guzmán; she was Lady of Puerto de Santa María and the titular Princess of Fortuna. She was a member of the House de la Cerda. Sultan Süleymān brought her into the palace as he was attracted to her. At first, she was unwilling, but when she realizes that it’s best for her to listen to Sultan Süleymān, she starts to challenge Hurrem. But as she becomes a threat to Hurrem, she kills her. 

Yes, Crystal Zhang is the perfect person for this role.

Viann Zhang as Victoria (Sadıka Hatun)

This Hungarian concubine, whose real name is Victoria, is, actually, a spy sent by King Lajos to kill Sultan Süleymān. While Lajos was laughing and having fun with them in the palace in honor of the marriage of his commander named Ariel and Victoria, Suleyman and his men raided the palace at night. When Süleymān murdered Ariel in front of Victoria, Victoria swore vengeance. When King Lajos gave her the task of spying on Topkapi, she accepted without hesitation. She was smuggled into Ottoman territory disguised as a man, fell from a roof and was injured. She was found by Matrakçı Nasuh and restored to health. Victoria wanted to kill Sultan Süleymān, but she couldn’t.

I always felt that Viann Zhang looks a little daring, so I picked her for this role.

Main Roles

Zhu Yi Long as Pargalı Ibrahim Pasha

Pargalı Ibrahim Pasha, also known as Frenk Ibrahim Pasha (“the Westerner”), Makbul Ibrahim Pasha (“the Favorite”), which later changed to Maktul Ibrahim Pasha (“the Executed”) after his execution in the Topkapı Palace, was the first Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire appointed by Sultan Suleiman, the Magnificent. Ibrahim, born as a Christian, was enslaved during his youth. He and Suleiman became close friends in their youth. In 1523, Suleiman appointed Ibrahim as Grand Vizier to replace Piri Mehmed Pasha, who had been appointed in 1518 by Suleiman’s father, the preceding sultan Selim I. Ibrahim remained in office for the next 13 years. He attained a level of authority and influence rivaled by only a handful of other grand viziers of the Empire, but in 1536, he was executed on Suleiman’s orders, and his property was confiscated by the state.

Ibrahim is my favourite character. When he died, my country’s people literally protested to bring his character back, but sadly it wasn’t possible. So you can feel how much people loved him. I totally loved him. I still do. For my favourite character, I chose Zhu Yi Long. I think he would kill it.

Angelababy as Hatice Sultan (Ottoman princess)

Daughter of Sultan Selim I and Hafsa Sultan. Younger Sister of Sultan Süleymān. She was in love with Ibrahim Pasha. Sultan Süleymān supported them and let them marry each other.

At first, I didn’t like her even a little bit. I was like, no, she isn’t beautiful enough to be a Princess. But I learned the most important lesson of my life from her character. Character, honesty, and truthfulness are so much more important than outer beauty. But wasn’t she beautiful? Yes, she is a unique beauty. Something was wrong with my eyes. She was very beautiful. But other than her beauty, her personality was something that deserves praise. And that’s why she is the only woman whom I like on this show. 

In some dramas, I saw Angelababy acting calm, so I think she should play this important character.

Seven Tan as Nigar Kalfa

Nigar Kalfa is one of the servants working in the harem. She was sold as a slave to the Ottoman Empire. Until that time, she was living in one of the villages near the Danube River. Nigar Kalfa is very intelligent and very good at keeping things moving. She helps Hürrem Sultan a lot in every way and ranks after Sumbul Aga and Daye Hatun in the harem. Nigar Kalfa easily becomes Hurrem Sultan’s best friend and confidante. She really and deeply loves Hurrem and cares about her. Also, she is a very big factor in Hurrem’s progress overall. Nigar Hatun also takes care of the concubines in the harem meticulously. She tries her best not to leak any private matters out of the harem.

I didn’t even give the casting a second thought because look how similar they are looking in these photos. She is also an important character.

Li Xian as Malkoçoğlu Balı Bey

Malkoçoğlu Bali Bey, also known as Malkoç Bey, was an Ottoman military commander and governor, serving Suleiman, the Magnificent. He was the son of Malkoçoğlu Yaya Pasha, who had served as Beylerbey of Anatolia and Rumelia and attained the rank of vizier, marrying a daughter of Bayezid II. A great warrior of that time, Mihrimah had a crush on him since her childhood, but he always saw her as a child. Mihrimah Sultan wanted to marry him since she was a child, and it’s good that he didn’t marry an evil princess like her.

For Bali Bey’s character, I want an actor who has a strong personality because Bali Bey was really a strong character. And I felt that Li Xian has a really strong personality. And his acting is also really good. So, overall, he is the best choice.

Cheng Yi as Şehzade Mustafa

Şehzade Mustafa was an Ottoman prince and the son of Sultan Suleiman, the Magnificent and his consort Mahidevran Sultan. He was the prince-governor of Manisa from 1532 to 1542, of Amasya from 1542 to 1549, and of Konya from 1549 to 1553. Mustafa’s relationship with his father was problematic. Though he was the first of Suleiman’s sons to survive childhood and the most likely heir, his father preferred Mustafa’s younger half-brother, Şehzade Mehmed, the eldest son of Hürrem Sultan, the most prominent of Suleiman’s consorts and later his legal wife. Mustafa was very close to his half-brothers Mehmed (born 1521), Selim (born 1524), Bayezid (born 1525), and Cihangir (born 1531), exemplified by the fact that Selim treated Mahidevran like his own mother by giving back her wealth and helping to build Mustafa’s türbe in Bursa.

Funny story but true, Cheng Yi always plays sad characters that die at the end. So I didn’t give much thought when I picked him. After Ibrahim, I definitely love Sehzade Mustafa. Those who watched this show are gonna agree that we all love him a lot. I didn’t cry when Ibrahim died, but Mustafa’s death was literally unbearable.

Supporting Roles

Zhou Yu Tong as Efsun Hatun (Nora)

Janice Man as Fatma Hatun

A fictional character. Nora was the first concubine of Sehzade Mustafa who was sent by Hurrem with special training to harm Sehzade Mustafa. However, she falls in love with him. Ha, who wouldn’t?
A fictional character. A servant of Mahidevran Sultan that seduced Sehzade Mustafa and later gave birth to his daughter. She was really bad. She seduced Sehzade Mustafa just to become a sultana.

Janice Wu as Aybige Hatun

She is a niece of Valide Sultan and was brought to marry Sehzade Mustafa. They didn’t know that at first, so she basically fell in love with Malkoçoğlu Balı Bey, which was a crime. So she was sent home after that incident. She liked to fight, and she was kind of modern. Trust me, Janice Wu is the best choice for this character.

Cecilia Liu as Beyhan Sultan (Ottoman princess)

Beyhan Sultan (Ottoman Turkish: بیحان سلطان‎; died 1559) was an Ottoman princess, daughter of Selim I and Ayşe Hafsa Sultan (possibly) or maybe Ayşe Hatun. She was the sister of Sultan Suleiman, the Magnificent. She was alienated from her brother and refused to remarry, so she lived in a self-exile from Istanbul in her palace at Skopje. Beyhan Sultan’s loyalty to her husband surpassed her loyalty to her family, which was a rare occasion. Ferhat (her husband) was executed on the grounds of rapacious and ruthless conduct in the provinces to which he was assigned. Through the intercession of Suleiman’s mother Ayşe Hafsa Sultan, Ferhat had been pardoned after his first offences, but he continued to provoke complaints from his constituents, so the sultan ordered him executed.

Beyhan Sultan was a decent woman. She didn’t hurt anyone but was hurt by others. Cecilia Liu also plays decent characters, so I felt she was perfect.

Honourable Mentions

No way in hell will I forget about these four amazing characters. These four characters are also my favourites. It’s really not possible to find their Chinese cast for me. But this article felt incomplete without mentioning them.        

This is a magical ring. Only a few women could achieve it. In the series, the ring was shown as a huge achievement for the Sultanate Women. Originally, Sultan Suleyman made it for Mahidevran Sultan but gave it to Hurrem Sultan. And it went from Hurrem Sultan to Nurbanu Sultan, to Safiye Sultan, to Kosem Sultan, to Turhan Sultan. Yes, this ring is really magical.

And Finally, The Crown Of Hurrem Sultan 


  • First of all, this show isn’t just a show for me. It’s pure emotion. As much as I love this drama, I also hate it the same amount. Why? Because I didn’t like how Sultan Süleymān was shown. I hated his character a lot. If he had wanted, he could have saved his family. For example, he ordered to murder Ibrahim Pasha after inviting him into the Harem. 
  • I also disagree with the audience of this drama. People actually like Hurrem Sultana and support her. I literally hate her. I know Ibrahim Pasha wasn’t totally innocent, but in this drama, everyone loses their innocence because of the miserable conditions. Yes, it’s just a drama but wrong is wrong.
  • All the actors have done a great job in this drama. Each character was interesting. It really affects my life that even though I know it’s just a show, I’m totally emotionally involved in it. It’s a masterpiece!
  • Although there were many fictional stories, this series does teach us a lot of things. I remembered a lot of great life lessons while writing this article. No matter what, this series is a masterpiece that will keep you hooked from the beginning to the end. I recommend everyone to watch this series. It’s available on YouTube with English subtitles, and if you are lucky, you might find it dubbed in your native language.

Thanks for reading my article. Let me know your thoughts in the comment section! 

 Have you seen Magnificent Century?

Edited by: devitto (1st editor), Cookie (2nd editor)

dilraba dilmurat
cheng yi
zhang yuxi
magnificent century

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