Chines TV show censored off cleavage from sexy periodic drama Empress of China
A still image from the highly popular TV show Empress of China Hunan TV

The Empress of China, a hugely popular Chinese historical drama returned to TV on New Year but was allowed to show only the head of the actresses and not their cleavages.

In late December, the popular show had been temporarily paused and was taken off air "due to technical difficulties".

The controversial cleavage censorship comes in to play as the Chinese government intensifies its crackdown on freedom of expression, both online and on traditional media.

When the show resumed, viewers could only see the leading ladies from the neck up.

Apparently, the ban was to punish the show's producers for using racy costumes for the actresses.

"Many viewers speculated the suspension was a punishment given by the country's television regulators for the much-discussed revealing costumes of female characters on the show, which stirred online debate in which the female characters were dubbed 'squeezed breasts'," the official news agency Xinhua reported via Hollywood Reporter.

However, fans who eagerly awaited the return of the show, were disappointed when they could only see the actresses as "talking heads".

Apparently, the cleavage cut will be applicable for all the 17 episodes that will be aired on Hunan TV starting from 1 January.

The censorship has angered many fans and some of them expressed their disappointment on social media.

Meanwhile, Fan Bingbing, the lead actress and the show's producer, posted on her Weibo (China's equivalent of microblogging site Twitter) "Don't lower your head! The crown will drop! Don't cry! Bad people will laugh!" Drama For Ever reported.

The Empress of China, dramatically narrates the saga of Wu Zetian, the only female emperor of China, who ruled during the Tang Dyansty from 618 to 907.