Danmei (耽美), also known as BL (Boys’ Love), is a genre that has become something of a cultural movement — a challenge against the boundaries of national censorship in its bid for queer representation. It has achieved a massive following in the last few years, and thanks in part to the works of online writers, the genre has been further catapulted into the international stage, capturing its attention.
Mo Xiang Tong Xiu (墨香铜臭) is the pseudonym used by one of the most successful danmei authors in China. She has penned three highly popular fantasy works: Ren Zha Fanpai Zijiu Xitong (人渣反派自救系统, transl. The Scum Villain’s Self-Saving System), Mo Dao Zu Shi (魔道祖师, transl. Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation), and Tian Guan Ci Fu (天官赐福, transl. Heaven Official’s Blessing).
All works are published on a Chinese web novel site, Jinjiang Literature City. They have also received various translations and multimedia adaptations that dominated online trends all over the world. Here is a rundown of how MXTX is ruling over the ever-increasing danmei fandom:
1. Ren Zha Fanpai Zijiu Xitong (人渣反派自救系统)
MXTX’s debut work is a comedy xianxia romance that details the life of Shen Yuan, a modern web novel critic who dies and transmigrates into the story that he was violently reviewing. Reborn as Shen Qingqiu, a scum villain who abuses his protagonist disciple Luo Binghe, Shen Yuan strives to avoid his character’s tragic fate of torture and dismemberment, only to be deterred by the gamifying rules of “The System.”
In addition to being published online, Ren Zha Fanpai Zijiu Xitong has enjoyed a Chinese paperback release by PINSIN Studio (平心出版). It has also been adapted into a donghua (Chinese animated series) released September this year on YouTube and WeTV.
2. Mo Dao Zu Shi (魔道祖师）
English: Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation
MXTX’s most successful work to date is Mo Dao Zu Shi. This wuxia web novel narrates the story of Wei Wuxian, the universally hated and feared founder of demonic cultivation who cruelly terrorized the world. Killed in cold blood by his dearest martial brother and the combined forces of the great sects, Wei Wuxian is revived thirteen years later in the body of a known lunatic, only to be promptly whisked away by his archenemy Lan Wangji. The two then embark on a journey to uncover a decade-long mystery, revealing that there is much more to Wei Wuxian’s history than the world knows.
Popular for its complex plot, deep themes, and overarching romance, Mo Dao Zu Shi has not only received official translations in Korean, Vietnamese, and Thai, but has also spawned several multimedia adaptations, including a donghua, a manhua, an audio drama, and the widely successful live-action series, The Untamed, which racked up nearly 8 billion views on Tencent by the end of 2019. A national popularity index also showed that The Untamed ranked first on a list that included 631 Chinese online dramas that aired in 2019 and the first half of 2020.
As a live-action series, The Untamed has been subjected to strict censorship rules prior to its release. Though this means that there was no explicit romance between the two main characters, both domestic and international fans were keen to dissect the undeniable chemistry between lead actors, Xiao Zhan and Wang Yibo, who have become two of the most bankable stars in the industry overnight.
Suddenly, content from the seemingly niche BL genre has grown to be one of the hottest trending topics in social media around the world. For many, Mo Dao Zu Shi and The Untamed have served as gateways that introduced them to the deep danmei fandom.
3. Tian Guan Ci Fu (天官赐福)
English: Heaven’s Official Blessing
Tian Guan Ci Fu is MXTX’s latest and longest work to date. Spanning over five books and 200 chapters, Tian Guan Ci Fu shares the romantic story of a god and his most devoted believer.
Once regarded as the darling of the heavens, Xie Lian, the crown prince of Xian Le, ascended as a martial god at the young age of seventeen but was soon after twice demoted as a trash god. After eight hundred years, Xie Lian ascends again with no followers to his name and attracts the attention of the mysterious ghost king, Hua Cheng.
Featuring a riveting and complex storyline that details an otherworldly romance, Tian Guan Ci Fu has become a favorite of many, especially with adaptations that include a manhua and a recently released donghua of the same name.
A live-action drama of the series has also just been announced, with filming slated to begin in the second quarter of 2021.
Drama adaptation of Mo Xiang Tong Xiu’s BL novel #HeavenOfficialsBlessing (#TianGuanCiFu) gears up for production. Co-produced by iQiyi, Huace/Croton, & Syndication Film & TV, filming is slated to begin Q2 2021, with Chen Jialin (The Untamed) as director#天官赐福 pic.twitter.com/TxWoqBwAjr
— cdrama tweets (@dramapotatoe) December 9, 2020
MXTX is still currently writing her fourth novel, Sishen Meiyou Xiuxiri (死神没有休息日, transl. Death Gods Don’t Have Rest Days). But both new and old danmei fans know that there is nothing to fear with the delay — MXTX’s works are but a gateway to the rapidly proliferating world of Chinese LGBT+ content.
There is nothing more to do than to jump right in!