Chinese TV dramas, also known as C-Dramas, have gained immense popularity domestically and internationally, captivating audiences with their compelling storylines, talented actors, and high production values. There are several signature styles of Chinese dramas. Most famous of all is Wuxia Dramas (武侠剧 - Wǔxiá jù), which are historical costume dramas set in fictionalized versions of ancient China. They feature skilled martial artists, epic battles, and codes of honor and loyalty.
Another increasingly popular genre is youth dramas (青春剧 - Qīngchūn jù). These stories center around the lives and experiences of young protagonists as they navigate the challenges of adolescence and coming of age. These dramas address themes such as friendship, identity, love, and self-discovery, resonating with younger viewers and exploring issues relevant to contemporary youth culture.
1.“Hidden Love” (- Tōu Tōu Cáng Bù Zhù) – 2023
This youth drama is based on a web novel of the same name by Zhu Yi. It tells the story of Sang Zhi, a high school girl who falls in love with her older brother's college roommate, Duan Jia Xu. He's five years older than her. Eventually, she goes to university in the same city where he lives, where they reunite and slowly fall in love.
2.“Love Like the Galaxy” (星汉灿烂 - Xīng Hàn Càn Làn) – 2022
Adapted from the novel "Xing Han Can Lan, Xing Shen Zhi Zai" (星汉灿烂, 幸甚至哉) by Guan Xin Ze Luan, this historical romance story follows the clever Cheng Shao Shang, who was left behind by her parents who were called to fight in a years-long war. Raised by relatives, she grew up neglected and uneducated. Lacking love her whole life, she is pragmatic and insecure about opening up to others, but this slowly changes after she meets the emperor's foster son, General Ling Bu Yi.
3.“Who Rules the World” (且试天下 - Qiě Shì Tiān Xià) – 2022
Adapted from the novel of the same name, this Wuxia drama tells the story of Heng Feng Xi and Bai Feng Xi, opposites who are unrivaled in martial arts skills and intellect. They caught the crossfire of warfare and the chaos of the martial arts and political worlds, and the flowers of love began to bloom amidst the blood that had been sacrificed within the last ten years.
4.“Princess and Lighter” (点燃我，温暖你- diǎn rán wǒ, wēn nuǎn nǐ) – 2022
A youth drama is an adaptation of the novel "The Lighter and the Princess' Gown" by Twentine. It follows two college students, the cold computer programming ace Li Xun and the friendly and innocent Zhu Yun. They are drawn to each other when they meet despite being opposites. But when a life-altering incident threatens to separate them just as their romance begins, it puts their love to the ultimate test.
5.“You Are My Glory” (你是我的荣耀 - nǐ shì wǒ de róng yào) - 2021
Adapted from a web novel of the same name, this modern romance story is about an aerospace engineer, Yu Tu, and a well-known celebrity, Qiao Jing Jing. To save her endorsement deal, Qiao Jing Jing starts gaming, but it brings her face to face with an old crush. As they grow closer, the two forge ahead to become each other's glory.
6.“Romance of Tiger and Rose” (传闻中的陈芊芊 – chuán wén zhōng de chén qiān qiān) – 2020
This popular historical fantasy romantic comedy tells the story of an up-and-coming scriptwriter, Chen Xiao Qian. After selling her script, she quickly falls under the scrutiny of the male lead actor, who demands a rewrite. While working on the rewrite, she falls asleep and awakes to be transported into her own story as a side character who dies in the third episode. What follows is a comedic effort to stay alive and find her way back home.
7."The Untamed" (陈情令 - Chén Qíng Lìng) – 2019
Adapted from the novel "Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation" by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu, "The Untamed" is a historical fantasy drama about two cultivators unraveling a conspiracy in a world of magic and martial arts. The drama's compelling storyline, rich character development, and poignant themes of friendship and redemption have garnered widespread acclaim.
8."Love and Destiny" (宸汐缘 - Chén Xī Yuán) – 2019
Following a forbidden love between a deity and a mortal woman, this fantasy romance is known for its breathtaking cinematography, ethereal soundtrack, and compelling storyline; the drama transports viewers to a world of magic, mythology, and timeless love.
9."Joy of Life" (庆余年 - Qìng Yú Nián) – 2019
A historical drama that follows the journey of a young nobleman as he navigates the dangerous waters of court politics and seeks revenge for his family's betrayal. The drama has become a favorite among viewers with its engaging plot, witty dialogue, and charismatic lead actor.
10."The Longest Day in Chang'an" (长安十二时辰 - Cháng'ān Shí'èr Shíchén) – 2019
Set in the Tang Dynasty, "The Longest Day in Chang'an" follows a former detective and a government official as they race against time to prevent a terrorist attack on the capital city of Chang'an. Known for its suspenseful plot, breathtaking action scenes, and meticulous attention to detail, the drama offers a thrilling glimpse into ancient China.
11."The Legend of Hao Lan" (皓镧传 - Hào Lán Chuán) – 2019
Set during the Warring States period, "The Legend of Hao Lan" follows the journey of a lowly slave girl as she rises to power and seeks revenge against those who wronged her. With its strong female lead, intricate plot twists, and lavish production, the drama has captivated audiences with its ambition, betrayal, and redemption tale.
12."The Legends" (招摇 - Zhāo Yáo) – 2019
Adapted from the novel "Zhaoyao" by Jiu Lu Fei Xiang, "The Legends" is a fantasy romance that follows the journey of a demon princess who seeks revenge against those who wronged her family. With its captivating storyline, dynamic characters, and stunning visual effects, the drama offers a thrilling and immersive viewing experience.
13."The Rise of Phoenixes" (天盛长歌 - Tiān Shèng Cháng Gē) – 2018
Adapted from the novel "Huang Quan" by Tianxia Guiyuan, "The Rise of Phoenixes" is a historical romance that follows the power struggles and love story between a prince and a noblewoman in a fictional kingdom. The drama's lavish production, intricate costumes, and complex characters garnered praise for its epic scale and compelling storytelling.
14."Ashes of Love" (香蜜沉沉烬如霜 - Xiāng Mì Chén Chén Jìn Rú Shuāng) – 2018
This fantasy romance tells the story of a fairy princess who falls in love with the son of the Flower Deity. With its beautiful visuals, touching romance, and compelling storyline, the drama has captured viewers' hearts with its tale of love, sacrifice, and redemption.
15."Story of Yanxi Palace" (延禧攻略 - Yánxǐ Gōnglüè) – 2018
Set during the Qing Dynasty, "Story of Yanxi Palace" follows the journey of a palace maid as she navigates the treacherous world of court politics to uncover the truth behind her sister's death. Known for its intricate plot, intricate costumes, and strong female lead, the drama captivated audiences with its suspenseful twists and turns.
16."Eternal Love" (三生三世十里桃花 - Sānshēng Sānshì Shílǐ Táohuā) – 2017
This fantasy romance drama is based on the novel "To the Sky Kingdom" by Tang Qi. The drama follows the love story between a deity and a mortal woman spanning three lifetimes. With stunning visuals, intricate plot twists, and captivating performances by the cast, "Eternal Love" has become a beloved classic in the Chinese drama landscape.
17."Princess Agents" (楚乔传 - Chǔ Qiáo Zhuàn) – 2017
Set during the Northern Wei Dynasty, "Princess Agents" follows the story of a slave girl who rises to become a powerful spy and military strategist. Known for its strong female lead, intense action scenes, and gripping plot twists, the drama has garnered an extensive domestic and international fan base.
18."Legend of Fu Yao" (扶摇 - Fú Yáo) – 2018
Adapted from the novel "Empress Fu Yao" by Tianxia Guiyuan, "Legend of Fu Yao" is a fantasy romance that follows the journey of a slave girl who discovers her true identity as an influential martial artist. With its epic scale, thrilling action scenes, and charismatic lead actress, the drama has become a hit among fans of the fantasy genre.
19."Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms" (三生三世十里桃花 - Sānshēng Sānshì Shílǐ Táohuā) – 2017
A fantasy romance that tells the story of a goddess and a prince who are reincarnated and reunited in different lifetimes. With its breathtaking visuals, poignant romance, and compelling mythology, the drama has captured viewers' imagination with its tale of eternal love and destiny.
12."The King's Woman" (秦时丽人明月心 - Qínshí Lìrén Míng Yuè Xīn) – 2017
A historical romance that tells the story of a cunning strategist who uses her intelligence and wit to navigate the treacherous world of the Qin Dynasty court. With its intricate plot, political intrigue, and memorable performances by the cast, the drama offers a captivating glimpse into ancient Chinese history. As we embark on a new year, these top 20 Chinese dramas offer diverse stories and genres to explore, promising hours of entertainment and emotional resonance for viewers worldwide. Whether you're a fan of historical epics, modern romances, or fantasy adventures, there's something for everyone to enjoy.
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