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5 Must-Watch Chinese Historical Dramas Based on Novels

Want to learn more about traditional Chinese culture and history? A good place to start would be watching Chinese historical dramas. Better yet, make it a historical drama adapted from a popular Chinese web novel.

Chinese historical dramas may seem intimidating at first, but this trending genre has different subcategories to suit anyone’s taste. Viewers can choose from romance, comedy, fiction, fantasy (wuxia and xianxia), politics, and melodrama. And be sure to stay for the intricate plots and appealing characters.

 If those aren’t enough to convince you to start watching this genre, here are 5 must-watch historical dramas that will have you hooked:

1. The Story of Yanxi Palace (延禧攻略)

The Story of Yanxi Palace is set during the Qing Dynasty and features the historical figures, Emperor Qianlong and his three wives. Wei Yingluo is on a mission to find out the truth about her sister’s death so she joins the royal court and ends up working as a maid at Changchun Palace. She eventually finds herself  becoming another Emperor’s concubine and gains her title as Consort Ling. However, she faces complications at every turn: continuing her hidden agenda, fending off rivals, and being an Emperor’s concubine. The drama is adapted from the novel, Yan Xi Gong Lüe by Zhou Mo. It garnered international popularity for its cinematography, historical facts, and aesthetically pleasing costumes. The drama was even the most Googled show in the world in 2018 and won Best Television Series at the 5th Hengdian Film and TV Festival of China.

2. The Untamed (陈情令)

Adapted from the popular danmei novel, Mo Dao Zu Shi by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu, The Untamed is xianxia and a bromance drama that paved the way for the BL or Boys’ Love genre in China, despite the strict censorship. It also became well known globally and sparked interest and discussions about Chinese culture. The drama chronicles the adventures of the talented cultivators, Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji, both from noble clans. When the evil Wen clan dominates the cultivation realm, Wei Wuxian, Lan Wangji, and other clans join forces to defeat them and save the world. 

Through many unfortunate events, Wei Wuxian returns after 16 years and reunites with Lan Wingji to uncover the truth behind the mysterious deaths. Hidden secrets from the past are revealed as the duo tries to solve the murders and figure out the real mastermind behind it all. With eye-candy actors, an amazing soundtrack, and a riveting plot, what more could you ask for?

3. Ever Night (将夜)

Based on the xianxia novel by Mao Ni, Ever Night is historical fiction, fantasy, and a romance drama all in one! It tells the story of Ning Que and his maid, Sang Sang, who suffered under General Lin Guang Yuan’s regime and a violent attack. Yet, the two lone survivors persevere and head to Du City where Ning Que trains in a martial arts academy. After learning about Sang Sang’s powers, Ning Que embarks on a quest to save his beloved Sang Sang and his countrymen. 

4. And the Winner is Love (月上重火)

Are you a fan of the hit historical drama, Ashes of Love? Then, And the Winner is Love, is for you. Ashes of Love actors, Luo Yunxi, Chen Yuqi, and Zou Tingwei, reunite again for this amazing romance and fantasy drama adapted from Jun Zi Yi Ze’s novel. The story starts out with a daring rescue as Shangguan Tou, the master of the Moon Valley, swoops in to save Chong Xuezhi. Their friendship slowly blooms into a relationship, only to eventually fall prey to misunderstandings and hardships. The turmoil reaches a tipping point when Chong Xuezhi finds out that her father wrote two secret manuals for people who master “Shen Lian Jiu Shi” and puts the entire world in danger. Chong Xuezhi and Shangguan Tou join forces to find the culprit and save the day. 

5. Goodbye My Princess (东宫)

Goodbye My Princess is a melodramatic romance adaptation of the novel, Eastern Palace by Fei Wo Si Cun. Princess Xiaofeng of Xi State and Crown Prince Li Chengyin of Li Empire form a marriage alliance, as Xiaofeng grows deeply fond of the Crown Prince. Tragic events begin to unravel in the treacherous Eastern Palace where Xiaofeng lives. With the powerful and corrupt politics at the palace, Xiaofeng and Chengyin must face various trials and tribulations, while uncovering memories that were not meant to be known. Viewers need to prepare themselves for complex yet captivating characters, emotional scenes, and the push-and-pull relationship between the royal crowns. If you like a gripping story and political themes, Goodbye My Princess is for you — a heart-wrenching drama with a powerful ending that will stay with you long after the credits roll.

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