Those who have been interested in C-dramas lately might know the growing popularity of Chinese web novels among both domestic and international audiences. Due in part to the well-received live adaptations of stories such as Mo Dao Zu Shi (The Untamed), Love O2O, The King’s Avatar, and many more, several fans have started delving into the online literary abyss.
For those new and interested, here is an introductory guide and recommendation list to quickstart your Chinese web novel journey
Xianxia (仙侠 xiānxiá) = Literally meaning “Immortal Heroes,” this genre involves several high fantasy elements (e.g. immortals beings, demons, ghosts, and gods) derived from Chinese folklore and mythology. It is not uncommon for characters of this genre to try to cultivate their way to immortality through training and overcoming difficult trials.
Wuxia (武俠 wǔxiá) = Literally meaning “Martial Heroes,” this genre involves low fantasy elements, typically depicting stories of mortal heroes skilled in martial arts and cultivation. Stories of this genre generally include themes of chivalry, romance, adventure, and tragedy.
Xuanhuan (玄幻 xuánhuàn) = Literally meaning “Mysterious Fantasy,” this genre typically mixes elements of Chinese mythology and folklore with foreign story elements and settings. This generally does not include cultivation-driven stories.
Transmigration = A genre that deals with characters (usually the protagonist) being transported into the body of another in a different world setting.
Danmei (耽美 dān měi) = Literally meaning “Indulging Beauty,” this genre generally covers BL (Boy’s Love) stories, focusing on a romance between two male homosexual characters.
Disclaimer: Chinese web novels have a vast variety of genres and are not only limited to those stated above.
Here are 5 popular Chinese web novels to try:
Pinyin: Wēi Wēi Yī Xiào Hěn Qīng Chéng
Author: Gu Man (顾漫)
Genre Tags: Campus Romance, Slice of Life, Gaming
Commonly referred to as Love O2O by its international drama viewers, this web novel depicts a campus romance between Xiao Nai, an all-around excellent student and budding game company president, and Bei Weiwei, a reputed brains-and-beauty student and serious online gamer.
Falling in love at the first sight of her deft and dexterous fingers, Xiao Nai begins wooing Weiwei in both their on-and-offline worlds!
Pinyin: Mó Dào Zǔ Shī
Author: Mo Xiang Tong Xiu (墨香铜臭)
Genre Tags: Wuxia, Danmei, Mystery, Adventure, Action
Popularly known by its live-action adaptation title, The Untamed (陈情令, Chén Qíng Lìng), this web novel tells the story of Wei Wuxian, the hated and feared founder of demonic cultivation who roamed the world with his wanton ways. Though killed by his dearest martial brother and the combined forces of the great sects, he incarnates thirteen years later into the body of a known lunatic and is whisked away by his archenemy Lan Wangji!
This starts a thrilling and comedic mystery that reveals that there is more to Wei Wuxian’s history than he lets on.
Pinyin: Dǒu Luó Dà Lù
Author: Tang Jia San Shao (唐家三少)
Genre Tags: Xuanhuan, Action, Romance
Adapted into both a widely known donghua (animation) and manhua (comic), this web novel details the life of Tang San, who as one of the brightest and most prodigious disciples of the Tang Sect, committed an unforgivable crime by stealing his sect’s most secret teachings. Content with his attaining his ambitions and no longer seeing the point of living, Tang San then threw himself down Hell’s Peak. This, however, did not lead to his death but instead reincarnated him into the land of Douluo!
In Douluo Continent, Tang San discovers a new world of spiritual power and determinedly forges a new road to follow.
Pinyin: Wǒ Yù Fēng Tiān
Author: Er Gen (耳根)
Genre Tags: Xianxia, Action, Comedy, Romance, Tragedy, Alchemy
Ranking first on the Forbes Chinese Original Literature List in 2015, this web novel focuses on the story of Meng Hao, a failed young scholar who gets forcibly recruited into a sect of immortal cultivators. Discovering that the cultivation world is a cruel place, Meng Hao does his best to survive, all the while keeping the Confucian and Daoist ideals that he grew up studying.
A stubborn individual with strong ideals, Meng Hao sets forth on the path of a true hero and discovers what it means to “seal the Heavens.”
Pinyin: Pào Huī Nǚ Pèi
Author: Xiao Xiao Ye Yü (潇潇夜雨)
Genre Tags: Transmigration, Comedy, Historical, Romance, Slice of Life
Light-hearted and fluffy, Doomed to be Cannon Fodder reveals the story of Liu Yangyang, a 26-year old horticulturist who seemed to be doomed to spinsterhood. Somehow, while on her lunch break, Liu Yangyang suddenly transmigrated into the historical web novel that she was reading, replacing the female side character who was destined to be beaten to death.
Determined to survive, Liu Yangyang tries her best to seduce the male side character and to find a way back to her world.