Chinese Historical Dramas You Should See
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 15 years, granted if you’ve been to Asia, you’ve seen/heard of the classic TV Drama called “Huan Zhu Ge Ge” at one point or another.
Huan Zhu Ge Ge is one of my all-time favorite. But along with this fantastic classic, I want to introduce three other equally amazing period series you may have never seen before. I’m a sucker for romance and comedy duo…. so if you’re into that, keep reading!
Since I know some of these are pretty difficult to find, I’ve provided some links to Chinese streaming sites with full episodes. Note that Sohu is the video streaming for dramas and have high-quality uploads while Youku is basically the Chinese Youtube.
4) Wulong Prince乌龙闯情关(2001): | WATCH ON YOUKU
If there was an award for strangest place to grow up, this guy would win it. Liu Bingyi (Eric Suen) was brought up by two foster mothers in jail. Bingyi and the daughter of the prison chief, Ping Jun (Song Yan), were childhood friends growing up. Bingyi was always causing mischief. Bingyi and Ping Jun encounter the spunky daughter of the imperial general played by Cao Ying. Together, this trio meets a powerful monk who train them into fantastic martial artists. About this time, Bingyi finds out his birth identity and becomes Emperor Xuan of Han. Amidst of it all, a conspiracy is plotting to replace Bingyi as emperor…
I was totally rooting for Shui Xian and Bingyi to be together! I love that the series is good at both being funny and serious. Always original in humor. I really liked the wuxia scenes compared with most wuxia series, the special effects were kinda cheesy but effective (if you get me). Bingyi also goes through tremendous character development which I thoroughly enjoyed. He basically matured from a cheeky and aimless street rascal to leading his gang in the fight for justice and get back his throne.
3) Fool Rules The World 傻王闯天下(2004)| WATCH ON YOUKU
Because of his wit and favor by his father, the emperor, 9th Prince Jinghao (played by Roger Kwok) is targeted by the conspiring royalty who want to be heir. Jinghao gets maliciously attacked with a blow to the head the day to was to be the ascending the throne, rendering him “retarded”. Wenxiang (played by Bao Tsang) meets Jinhao prior to this. To Jinhao, it is love at first sight. After Jinhao is tricked into marrying a ambitious noblemen’s daughter, he soon learns Wenxiang was traveling south to another province. So of course, Jinghao and his entourage of servants tag along. Wenxiang becomes Jinghao’s “teacher” in order to overcome his mental condition but she soon falls in love with Jinghao’s kindheartedness and faithfulness to her. Jinghao and Wenxiang thus began a lovely romance as they go on the mission to seek justice for her father.
There is much competition and conspiracies between the princes, with evil plots thwarted by none other than our lovable “stupid” prince….by the way, the show never reveals whether Jinghao (9th prince) was faking his retardedness, but I’m suspecting that the illness was Jinghao’s disguise so that he could find out which were the evil princes who wanted to kill him.
Eloquent Ji Xiao Lan 铁齿铜牙纪晓岚(2000) | WATCH ON SOHU
Eloquen Ji Xiao Lan is a series I refrequent a lot. This was my first Chinese drama so there’s a lot of nostalgia for me when I replay this. The story revolves around Ji XIao Lan (played by Zhang Guo Li), a pipe-toting, prominent official of Emperor Qianlong’s reign. Ji Xiao Lan enters a political struggle with high-ranking official He Sheng and fights for justice for commoners as he attempts to reveal the injustice between the poor and corrupted officials to the Emperor. Along the way, he meets headlong with loves, adventure, women with a varied backgrounds, and thwarts evil with his wit.
Actor Zhang Guo Li makes a memorable performance as scholar Ji Xiao Lan: he’s quirky, intelligent, sly and you really find yourself cheering him on. He Sheng and Fu Kang An are the main antagonists, corrupted officials who you’d love to hate, although both actors who play these “evil” characters really do spice up the show a lot. You’ll love Eloquent Ji Xiao Lan for the humor, and that this series introduces traditional Chinese literature, idioms, calligraphy, in a pretty entertaining manner.
Huan Zhu Ge Ge还珠格格(1997) | WATCH ON SOHU
I saved the best for the last, Huan Zhu Ge Ge. Orphan girl Xiao Yan Zi is mistaken as Emperor Qianlong’s long lost daughter. However, the true princess is Xia Zi Wei, who is instead stuck outside the palace. I highly recommend reading this detailed summary of this series as it is probably the better written English synopsis of the series out there on the internet.
The story of switched real/fake princesses plot is by itself fascinating! In 1999, this kind of plot line was a fresh idea in the Chinese entertainment industry. The royalty falling in love with a bubbly, rebellious orphan/commoner….every girl’s dream, okay? There’s surprisingly a lot of “wuxia”, probably not the legit kind for hardcore wuxia fans, but I loved the qinggong/parkour and awesome sword fighting scenes. Also, you’ll love that you learn all sorts of wacky Chinese chengyu, poetry, olden days traditions, and Chinese chess! Which are all things I fell in love with BECAUSE of this series. You know what, I should really do a blog post on “what TV Dramas teach you” since I’ve got so many ideas for that post.
Note: I will have more drama recommendations on the following soon: Palace/Dynasty (this post), Republican Era, Wuxia. These posts are currently in the works.
While you’re here, stick around to read my most popular post – 5 Modern Chinese TV Dramas to Watch! (if you are weary of historical Chinese dramas and wonder if China actually has modern idol series, which, they do! here are some of the best that I’ve seen)
My question to you – What dramas make your top list of historical dramas?