When it comes to television series, Malaysians are more accustomed to those from Hong Kong, Korea, and the West. Lately, China’s homegrown dramas have started to make headlines in terms of production quality, star-studded cast, and their great storytelling techniques. A few of them even made waves in Malaysia when they were just released.
If you’re a fan of Asian television series and want to join the latest bandwagon, here are some of the top Chinese TV series you can start with:
1. Scarlet Heart (2011)
Scarlet Heart (or Step By Startling Step) is adapted from an online novel of the same name written by Chinese author Tong Hua. It tells the story of history enthusiast Zhang Xiao’s adventures when she accidentally travelled back in time to the Qing Dynasty. Living as a Manchurian noble lady named Ruoxi, she tries her best to maintain the peace between the nine Imperial Princes, whom she grows close to throughout the series, so that a bloody historical episode may be avoided.
Both the novel and series were so popular that Korea did its own adaptation of it named Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo.
2. Empresses in the Palace (2011)
This star-studded TV series features some of the best actresses from China and Hong Kong’s entertainment industries: Sun Li and Ada Choi. It’s so popular that it’s said that a whole town would stop to watch whenever a new episode is broadcasted. Empresses in the Palace is a fictional biopic of Empress Xiaoshengxian (known as Zhen Huan in the series) of the Qing Dynasty, adapted from a popular online novel by Liu Lianzi. The series follows Zhen Huan’s life in the Forbidden City as she rises from a low-ranked Imperial wife to a powerful Noble Consort. At every stage, Zhen Huan loses some of her innocence and kind nature but grows more calculative and street wise.
Empresses in the Palace is hailed as one of the best period dramas produced in China. The series also features a number of Chinese poetry, art, and medical knowledge, which the audience has picked up on.
3. Eternal Love (2017)
Also known as Three Lives Three Worlds, Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms, this wildly anticipated TV series will soon get its own movie in August. It’s also adapted from a popular online novel by Tangqi Gongzi. Though it’s a period drama, the series is fantasy-based as it tells the love story of two immortal beings. Star-crossed lovers Bai Qian and Ye Hua find themselves falling in love again and again with each other throughout three different lifetimes, only to be separated at the end due to misunderstandings and rules imposed by other heavenly beings.
Eternal Love has gained over 35 billion views online and gained Chinese dramas many foreign fans.
4. The Empress of China (2014)
This series star familiar faces like Fan Bingbing (from X-Men: Days of Future Past and Iron Man 3) and Aarif Rahman (from Bruce Lee, My Brother and Kung Fu Yoga). It’s also one of the most expensive productions in China’s history. The Empress of China is the story of Empress Wu, the only Chinese female monarch to rule in her own right. The series showed a human side to this controversial historical figure, who was known to employ drastic measures for the country’s benefits.
The series is also known for its beautiful costumes and sets, as well as an excellent soundtrack.
5. My Fair Princess (1998-1999)
You’ve probably already heard of this. It’s one of the most popular Chinese TV series in history. My Fair Princess was so popular locally and internationally, there were two seasons of it. The plot centres around the lives of two of the Forbidden City’s newest princesses – Xiao Yanzi and Ziwei. The latter is Emperor Qianlong’s long lost daughter, whereas Xiao Yanzi is a girl he initially thought was Ziwei but eventually adopted as his own. The girls’ free-spirited attitude does not sit well with the palace’s other inhabitants, and their behaviour often got them into trouble – sometimes even mortal danger.
This was probably Fan Bingbing’s first breakthrough in the entertainment industry. The three main actresses – Vicky Zhao, Ruby Lin, and Fan Bingbing – eventually rose to industry royalty status from this series.
Episodes: 72 (24 in the first season, 48 in the second season)
6. The Return of the Condor Heroes (2006)
Louis Cha’s classic has been adapted for TV so many times, there are about eight different versions of the same story, as such, The Return of the Condor Heroes does not need much introduction. It tells of how Yang Guo and his teacher/love interest Xiao Long Nu become the top martial arts masters in ancient China, fighting Mongols and local enemies along the way.
This Chinese version has arguably the best looking pair of actors cast as the lead roles.
Don’t worry, you can watch all these with the help of subtitles. But if you’re not a fan of those and want to pick up some Mandarin, Kaodim has professional tutors who can help with that.
Fill in this form to let our teachers know exactly what you want to learn. We’ll send over the quotes and tutors’ profiles for free so you can read reviews from previous customers before you hire.
written by Esther Chung