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5 ‘danmei’ novel adaptations you must watch out for in 2021

Following the global success of the live adaptations of Guardian (2018) and The Untamed (2019), they have set a high bar for upcoming danmei adaptations. It’s not a secret that there is a rise in popularity with danmei (耽美) or ‘BL’ (for ‘Boys’ Love’) content in China, Thailand, South Korea, America, and Europe. The historical and cultural themes under the danmei genre amplified interest and appreciation among international fans of Chinese culture. Even though there is strict censorship on the genre, the hype surrounding danmei live adaptations live up to the expectations of the public—domestically and internationally. 

While there are subtle romantic themes surrounding the live adaptations, the unique plot with popular actors, interesting settings, and creative cinematography enthrall audiences to watch the shows. The public seems to always look forward to the censored romance that balances the strong plots, captivating characters, and the cultural themes of the live adaptations. The censorship on the depiction of the romantic relationship between the characters turns into a strong friendship, as the characters become sworn brothers or soulmates in the drama. Despite that, the directors and scriptwriters do their best to accurately adapt the novels and avoid strict censorship. The characters still express their wholesome emotions and feelings without any physical and verbal actions, which the public actually enjoys. 

Here are 5 danmei novel adaptations that you must watch out in 2021:


1. Immortality (皓衣行)

Pinyin: Hào Yī Xíng

Genre: Historical Fiction, Reincarnation, Mystery, Xianxia (Immortal Hereos Fiction)

Actors: Chen Feiyu and Luo Yunxi 

Episodes: 50

Courtesy of Tencent Video

Based on the novel The Husky and His White Cat Shizun (二哈和他的白猫师尊) by Rou Bao Bu Chi Rou (肉包不吃肉). Emperor Taxian Jun (Mo Ran) reincarnates into his 16-year-old self as the disciple of his cold and indifferent master Chu Wanning whom he holds a grudge due to a terrible accident and death of his martial sister. Mo Ran discovers the secrets of his second lifetime about the catastrophe while Chu Wanning also learns the truth of Taxian Jun’s wrongdoings in the past. Chu Wanning and Mo Ran unite with other cultivators to find the real culprit and face the challenges to protect humanity in the Mortal Realm. 


2. Winner is King (杀破狼)

Pinyin: Shā Pò Láng

Genre: Historical Fiction, Steampunk, Politics 

Actors: Tan Jian Ci and Chen Zhe Yuan

Episodes: 45

   Courtesy of Tencent Video

Winner is King is adapted from the novel by the popular web novelist Priest whose works are being adapted to live-action shows. Winner is King brings a twist on historical politics with the steampunk genre, which brings an edge to historical dramas. Steam-powered machines called Violetsteam Gold run in the Great Liang Dynasty. When barbaric man tribes invaded the countryside village, Chang Geng’s life has turned upside down with his secret identity. Chang Geng also unfolds the secrets of his mother, teacher, and his adoptive father Gu Yun while facing conspiracies against his adoptive father. 


3. The Society of Four Leaves (张公案)

Pinyin: Zhāng Gōng Àn

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Adventure, Wuxia (Martial Heroes Fiction)

Actors: Song Wei Long and Jing Bo Ran

Episodes: 24

Courtesy of Tencent Video

Adapted from the novel by Da Feng Gua Guo (大风刮过), Zhang Ping, a poor yet smart scholar, gets caught in Lan Jue’s secret operation while he was in the capital for the National Examinations. Zhang Ping solves the case but shattered Lan Jue’s plan as the Minister of Rites. Despite the different status and opposite ideals, Lan Jue recommends Zhang Ping to be a minister in the Dali Temple. Zhang Ping and Lan Jue solve difficult court cases and get caught up in life-threatening situations. 


4. A Tale of the Wanderers (天涯客)

Pinyin: Tiān Yá Kè

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Adventure, Wuxia (Martial Heroes Fiction)

Actors: Zhang Zhe Han and Simon Gong

Episodes: 32

         Courtesy of Youku 

Popular web novelist Priest’s novels have been recently adapted into live actions like Guardian (2018), The Legend of Fei (2021), and Winner is King (2021). A Tale of the Wanderers is a must-watch novel adaption about two different martial artists Zhou Zishu and Wen Kexing with different agendas. Zhou Zishu quit his position as the leader who protects the royal family but gets caught up in a conspiracy in the martial arts world. On the other hand, Wen Kexing escapes Ghost Valley and plots revenge due to the death of his parents. The two martial artists go on an adventurous journey to find a legendary treasure while fulfilling their personal agendas.


5. Flying Phoenix (風于九天)

Pinyin: Fèng Yú Jiǔ Tiān

Genre: Historical Fiction, Transmigration, Politics

Actors: Dai Jing Yao and Ashin Shu 

Episodes: 60

Courtesy of iQiYi

Adapted from the novel by Feng Nong (風弄), Flying Phoenix is a mind-puzzling drama on how Feng Ming has transmigrated back to an ancient dynasty called Xi Lei. After he passed away from rescuing a child, the father of the saved child granted Feng Min another life. He becomes the crown prince of Thunder Kingdom and discovers conspiracies surrounding him like Rong Tian who agonizes him mentally and physically. Feng Ming is faced with conflicts on his secret identity and the mystery behind the “real” missing prince. 

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