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Overview of China’s 2016 Top TV Dramas

These are the 10 most popular TV dramas in mainland China in 2016.

Manya Koetse

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The titles of Chinese TV dramas consistently pop up in the daily top trending lists of Sina Weibo. After featuring an overview of the most-watched Chinese TV dramas in 2015, What’s on Weibo has now compiled a list of 10 popular TV dramas in mainland China in 2016. These are the most-watched and most-discussed dramas according to Weibo and Baidu charts of March 2016.

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Update: Also Read Our Top 10 of China’s 2017 Top TV Dramas Now!

(Note: Depending on where you live, the websites where these series are listed might have geo restrictions. You can circumvent this with a VPN to change your IP geo-location. We recommend NordVPN for this, as it is known for its fast streaming of online video content online.)

 

#1 Descendents of the Sun (太阳的后裔/태양의 후예)

top10dramanumber1
War & Romance Drama / 2016 South Korea
Aired since February 24 2016 / KBS2 / 16 episodes
Directed by Li Yingfu / Lee Eung-Bok (李应福)

The number one of this list is the only drama out of these ten that was not produced in mainland China; it was made in South Korea, and it is a huge success both in Korea as in the PRC.

‘Descendents of the Sun’ tells the story of the unlikely romance between special forces captain Shi-Jin (Song Joong-Ki) and surgeon Mo-Yeon (Song Hye-Kyo). After their initial love-at-first-sight encounter, Shi-Jin and Mo-Yeon soon discover they have very different outlooks on life.

While out on a military mission, Shi-Jin has to fight and hurt people in order to protect his people, whereas Mo-Yeon does all she can to keep people alive – no matter what ethnicity, religion or culture they have. But despite their strong differences, Shi-Jin and Mo-Yeon cannot let go of each other.

A large part of this drama was filmed in Greece. The series can be viewed on Viki.

 

#2 The Imperial Doctress (明代女医师)

whatsonweiboming
Costume Drama / 2016 Mainland China
Aired since February 16 2016 / Online Drama / 50 episodes
Directed by Li Guoli (李国立), Zheng Weiwen (郑伟文) & Lu Zeliang (卢泽良)

‘The Imperial Doctress’, also known as ‘Ming Medicine Woman’, brings the most famous female doctor of the Ming Dynasty to the TV screen. Tan Yunxian (谈允贤) lived in the Ming Dynasty from 1461-1554, and was a female physician in a time when Confucian ethics played a crucial role in everyday life and women had a low status in society.

The costume drama tells the story of the Tans, a family that has the doctor profession in its bloodline – even its past ancestors were imperial doctors. But when the family is set up by a grudgeful enemy, the royal court no longer allows them to practice medicine. Young daughter Tan Yunxian, played by Liu Shi Shi (刘诗诗, a.k.a. Cecelia Liu) secretly learns the art of medicine from her grandmother and helps to cure plagues and illnesses among the common people. The drama follows her as she grows up and struggles with her pursuit to become the doctor she wants to be. Emperor Zhu Qi Zhen (actor Wallace Huo) comes to play an important role in fulfilling her destiny (Viki 2016).

 

#3 Legend of the Qing Qiu Fox (青丘狐传说)

foxspirit
Costume & Fantasy Drama / 2016 Mainland China
Aired Since February 8, 2016 / Hunan TV / 40 episodes
Directed by Lin Yufen (林玉芬), Gao Linbao (高林豹) and Xu Huikang (徐惠康)

‘The Legend of the Qing Qiu Fox’ aka ‘The Legend of the Nine Tails Fox’ is a drama that consists of different supernatural stories and folktales about fox spirits and ghosts, based on work by Pu Songling.

Pu Songling was a Qing dynasty writer. His most famous work is the classical Chinese Liaozhai Zhiyi (Strange Tales from a Make-do Studio), a collection of stories about ghosts, spirits, and other extraordinary phenomena.

The drama can be watched through Viki.

 

#4 Far Away Love (远得要命的爱情)

yuande
Urban & Family Drama / 2016 Mainland China
First aired March 1 / 36 episodes
Directed by Niu Le (牛乐) and Zhu Shimao (朱时茂)

‘Far Away Love’ tells the story of the romance between Shen An (沈岸, played by Korean actor Park Haejin) and Meng Chuxia (孟初夏, played by Li Fei’er).

Meng Chuxia is a kind-hearted and optimistic single 28-year-old ‘shengnu’ (‘leftover woman’) who takes care of the son of her long lost sister. Shen An is a businessman who has returned to China from overseas to start a new company. When Shen An and Meng Chuxia meet, they are both not expecting to find love. Shen An is engaged to be married and Meng Chuxia is struggling to raise her teenage nephew. But despite their life situations, different (hidden) pasts and prejudices, you can probably guess what happens..

AsiaStarz writes that this drama was already produced in 2013, but was only aired now due to the strict Chinese TV censorship policies.

This drama is popular in both China and Korea because of the lead played by Park Haejin, who is very popular in South Korea and mainland China. The actor also stars in the Korean television series “Cheese in the Trap,” which is also extremely popular in China. The series were sold to Chinese video platforms Youku and Tudou for $125,000 per episode – the highest price ever paid for a Korean cable drama according to the Korea Herald.

 

#5 Because of Love (因为爱情有幸福)

yinweiaiqing
Love & Family Drama / 2016 Mainland China
First aired February 24 / Hunan TV (湖南卫视) / 70 episodes
Directed by Liu Junjie (刘俊杰)

‘Because of Love’, also known as ‘The Love of Happiness’, revolves around Lu Xiaonan (by Tang Yixin aka Tina Tang), an independent and strong woman who has just married to Kevin (William Chan), who has returned to China from America. As the newlyweds form a new family, Kevin gets reconnected to his roots as he finds the family he lost when he was young. But the reconnection with his family does not bring the anticipated happiness as memories from the past resurface, making Xiaonan and Kevin having to face difficulties in their young marriage.

The first episode can be viewed here.

 

#6 The Three Heroes and Five Gallants (五鼠闹东京)

threeheroes
Costume Drama / 2016 Mainland China
First aired February 17, 2016 / Anhui TV / 42 episodes
Directed by Wu Jiatai (吴家骀)

Based on the work by the 19th century Chinese writer Shi Yukun, this drama tells the 11th century story of the loyal knights who supported the legendary judge Bao Zheng in his fight against crime and corruption.

The first episode can be viewed here.

 

#7 The Legend of Mi Yue (芈月传)

miyue2

Costume and Historical Drama / 2015 Mainland China
First aired November 30, 2015 / Dongfang & Beijing TV / 81 episodes
Directed by Zheng Xiaolong (郑晓龙)

‘The Legend of Mi Yue’ tells the story of the first influential stateswoman of China, who lived over 2000 years ago. Just like the ‘Imperial Doctress‘, this drama also tells about the trials and tribulations of a strong female figure from China’s history.

Mi Yue, daughter of King Wei of Chu, was the first stateswoman in the history of China. The drama details her turbulent life, as Mi Yue becomes a concubine, gets separated her from first love Huang Xie, is banished, and eventually rises to power as the first Empress Dowager in China’s history (wiki). For more about Mi Yue, also read this article from the Women of China website.

The role of Mi Yue is played by renowned actress Sun Li (孙俪), who has previously won awards for best actress of China.

 

#8 The Lover’s Lies (爱人的谎言)

airende
Love & Family Drama / 2016 Mainland China
First aired February 24, 2016 / LETV / 50 episodes
Directed by Yu Zhonghe (余中和) and Lin Hongjie (林宏杰)

When Tong Sijie (童四季) becomes an orphan at an early age, she struggles and has to work different jobs to take care of her siblings. Then she meets the rich Yiyi – a love that seems to written in the stars. Just when Sijie and Yiyi decide they want to stay together forever, Yiyi’s dominant mother interferes in their relationship, spreading lies that drift the two lovers apart.

Check out the opening tune and the first episode here.

 

#9 Nirvana in Fire (琅琊榜)

nirvanainfire
Costume & Historical Drama / 2015 Mainland China
First aired September 19th, 2015 / Beijing TV / 54 episodes
Directed by Kong Sheng (孔笙) and Li Xue (李雪)

Nirvana in Fire‘ takes place in fourth century China, during the war between the feudal Northern Wei and Southern Liang dynasties. The story revolves around Lin Shu, the 19-year-old only child of General Lin Xie who is fighting in this war and does all he can to seek justice for him and his family. The series is based on the work by author Hai Yan.

The drama has won several awards.

 

#10 Addiction (上瘾)

上瘾
Gay Love Drama / 2016 Mainland China
First aired January 29th, 2016 / Beijing TV / 15 episodes
Directed by Ding Wei (丁伟)

This popular drama, that is also known under the English name of ‘Addicted’ or ‘Heroin’, is about the special bond that evolves between two young men Bai Luoyin (Xu Wei Zhou) and Gu Hai (Johnny Huang Jingyu). Bai, who lives with his father and grandmother, gets connected to Gu Hai when Bai’s mother remarries to Gu Hai’s father. Gu Hai harbors a deep grudge towards his father since his mother’s death, and the two men, both dealing with their family situations and personal conflicts, start to develop feelings for each other.

The show became big news in late February when media reported that the drama was taken offline by Chinese censors for showing “abnormal sexual relationships and behaviours”.

Although the drama was taken offline, it is still in the best-watched ranks.

– By Manya Koetse

©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    wendy mashabela

    June 23, 2016 at 7:13 pm

    I really like this Chinese movies , on channel 447 cctv4 .But what really hurts me is that these actors and actress speaks their language I really can’t hear them. if atleast they can explain or write in english on the screen please,,i really love this movies please help.And I’m from SA

    • Avatar

      Isy

      October 17, 2016 at 12:42 pm

      There’s a lot of websites where you can watch Asian drama’s with subtitles. Personally, I use a website called KissAsian. Hope I was of help!

  2. Avatar

    Marcia Curtain

    June 16, 2019 at 5:16 am

    Would like to know more about a TV series I started to watch on China recently I think it’s called Mai Xiang
    It as showing on CCTV I think
    Thank you

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China Arts & Entertainment

Two Hour Time Limit for KTV: China’s Latest Covid-19 Measures Draw Online Criticism

China’s latest COVID-19 infection prevention and control measures are drawing criticism from social media users.

Manya Koetse

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No more never-ending nights filled with singing and drinking at the karaoke bar for now, as new pandemic containment measures put a time limit as to how long people can stay inside entertainment locations and wangba (internet cafes).

On June 22nd, China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism (文旅部) issued an adjusted version to earlier published guidelines on Covid-19-related prevention and control measures for theaters, internet cafes, and other indoor entertainment venues.

Some of the added regulations have become big news on Chinese social media today.

According to the latest guidelines, it will not be allowed for Chinese consumers to stay at various entertainment locations and wangba for more than two hours.

Singing and dancing entertainment venues, such as KTV bars, can only operate at no greater than 50% maximum occupancy. This also means that private karaoke rooms will be much emptier, as they will also only be able to operate at 50% capacity.

On Weibo, the news drew wide attention today, with the hashtag “KTV, Internet Cafe Time Limit of Two Hours” (#KTV网吧消费时间不得超2小时#) receiving over 220 million views at the time of writing. One news post reporting on the latest measures published on the People’s Daily Weibo account received over 7000 comments and 108,000 likes.

One popular comment, receiving over 9000 likes, criticized the current anti-coronavirus measures for entertainment locations, suggesting that dining venues – that have reopened across the country – actually pose a much greater risk than karaoke rooms due to the groups of people gathering in one space without a mask and the “saliva [drops] flying around.”

The comment, that was posted by popular comic blogger Xuexi, further argues that cinemas – that have suffered greatly from nationwide closures – are much safer, as people could wear masks inside and the maximum amount of seats could be minimized by 50%. Karaoke rooms are even safer, Xuexi writes, as the private rooms are only shared by friends or colleagues – people who don’t wear face masks around each other anyway.

Many people agree with the criticism, arguing that the latest guidelines do not make sense at all and that two hours is not nearly enough for singing songs at the karaoke bar or for playing online games at the internet cafe. Some wonder why (regular) bars are not closed instead, or why there is no two-hour time limit for their work at the office.

Most comments are about China’s cinemas, with Weibo users wondering why a karaoke bar, where people open their mouths to sing and talk, would be allowed to open, while the cinemas, where people sit quietly and watch the screen, remain closed.

Others also suggest that a two-hour limit would actually increase the number of individuals visiting one place in one night, saying that this would only increase the risks of spreading the virus.

“Where’s the scientific evidence?”, some wonder: “What’s the difference between staying there for two hours or one day?”

“As a wangba owner, this really fills me with sorrow,” one commenter writes: “Nobody cares about the financial losses we suffered over the past six months. Our landlord can’t reduce our rent. During the epidemic we fully conformed to the disease prevention measures, we haven’t opened our doors at all, and now there’s this policy. We don’t know what to do anymore.”

Among the more serious worries and fears, there are also some who are concerned about more trivial things: “There’s just no way we can eat all our food at the KTV place within a two-hour time frame!”

By Manya Koetse

*” 餐饮其实才更严重,一群人聚在一起,而且不戴口罩,唾沫横飞的。开了空调一样也是密闭空间。电影院完全可以要求必须戴口罩,而且座位可以只出售一半。KTV其实更安全,都是同事朋友的,本身在一起都不戴口罩了,在包间也无所谓。最危险的餐饮反而都不在意了”

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©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Arts & Entertainment

Chinese Idol Survival Shows – The Start of a New ‘Idol Era’

Idol reality survival shows are riding a new wave of popularity in China.

Yin Lin Tan

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China has a vibrant online popular culture media environment, where new trends and genres come and go every single day. Chinese idol survival shows, however, have seen continued success and now seem to go through another major peak in popularity. What’s on Weibo’s Yin Lin explains.

On May 30, the finale of Chinese online video platform iQIYI’s Youth With You 2 (青春有你2) broke the Internet. Official videos on iQIYI’s Youtube channel garnered over 300 million views. At the time of writing, the hashtag “Youth With You 2 Finale” (#青春有你2总决赛#) has 3.15 billion views; the hashtag “Youth With You 2” (#青春有你2#) has 14.5 billion views. 

In recent years, China has produced a slew of so-called ‘idol survival shows.’ They have enjoyed much popularity among local audiences, as well as overseas—more than 393 hashtags related to Youth With You 2 trended in Asia, Europe, South America, and North America. In this overview, we explore the background, status quo, and future of China’s idol survival shows.

 

The Start of The ‘Idol Wave’ in China 

 

In China’s idol survival reality shows, so-called ‘trainees’, or aspiring idols, participate in a series of different challenges to compete for a chance to debut.

The ‘idol culture’ (偶像文化) has been dominating popular culture in Japan and South Korea for many years. An idol is, in short, a heavily commercialized multi-talented entertainer that is marketed – sometimes as a product – for image, attractiveness, and personality, either alone or with a group.

Especially K-pop and the Korean entertainment industry have since long been extremely popular among Chinese youth, heavily influencing pop culture in China today (more about Korean and Japanese idols here and here, and also read our article “Why Korean Idol Groups Got So Big in China and are Conquering the World“).

These kinds of shows are ubiquitous in South Korea’s popular culture, with Produce 101 (2016) becoming one of the most popular and successful South Korean reality series ever. 

The concept is simple. Every week, viewers vote for their favorite contestant. Trainees with insufficient votes during elimination rounds are eliminated from the competition. 

Nine Percent, the group formed from Idol Producer (Source).

The group formed from the final trainees then goes on to ‘promote’ for a period of time, usually one to two years.

This method of creating an idol group, in which the members are basically selected by their own fans, is a major way to bridge existing distances between fans and their idols. Fan participation is a key factor in the success of idol reality shows.

While China has had several idol survival shows, iQIYI’s Idol Producer (青春有你, 2018) was the first to reach levels of popularity similar to that of South Korea’s Produce 101

Idol Producer premiered in January 2018 with Zhang Yixing as the host and Li Ronghao, MC Jin, Cheng Xiao, Zhou Jieqiong, and Jackson Wang serving as mentors.

This first season of Idol Producer brought together a total of hundred trainees. Though most trainees were from China, there were a few from overseas, such as You Zhangjing from Malaysia and Huang Shuhao from Thailand. The younger brother of Chinese actress Fan Bingbing, Fan Chengcheng, also participated in the show.

The first episode of Idol Producer attracted more than 100 million views within the first hour of broadcasting. In the final episode, more than 180 million votes were cast, with first-place winner Cai Xukun raking in more than 47 million votes.  

Trainees performing on Produce 101 China (Source).

Two months after Idol Producer, Tencent launched Produce 101 China (创造101) in March 2018. Both shows marked the start of the ‘idol wave’ in China. 

In the next two years, more idol survival shows would dominate the Chinese entertainment scene. iQIYI released Youth With You 1 (青春有你) and Youth With You 2 (青春有你2) in 2019 and 2020 respectively. Tencent, too, released Produce Camp 2019 (创造营2019) and Produce Camp 2020 (创造营2020), the latter of which is currently airing. 

 

China’s New Idol Survival Show Era 

 

In 2018, both Produce 101 China and Idol Producer enjoyed overwhelming popularity, accumulating more than 4.73 billion views and 3 billion views respectively. Their sequels, however, have failed to achieve the same level of success.

At the time of writing, 150,000 viewers have completed Youth With You 1 on Chinese community site Douban, versus 470,000 viewers for its predecessor, Idol Producer. Additionally, the number of votes cast for the first episode of Youth With You 1 was much lower compared to its Idol Producer equivalent. 

The number of votes for the top 19 trainees on Idol Producer (left) versus Youth With You 1 (right) in the first episode (Source).

As for Produce 101 China, 510,000 viewers have completed the show on Douban, but only 340,000 viewers have finished watching its sequel. 

Groups formed from these shows have met with varying amounts of success and have run into problems regarding scheduling conflicts. 

Nine Percent, the boy group formed from Idol Producer in 2018, was known as a group that rarely met. Their second album was a compilation of tracks from solo members. Members had existing contracts with their own companies while simultaneously promoting with Nine Percent; hence, due to scheduling conflicts, members would often forgo Nine Percent activities for those of their own company. 

Rocket Girls from Produce 101 China. (Source)

Rocket Girls, formed from Produce 101 China, also faced problems after debuting. Due to conflicts between Tencent and their management company, Yuehua Entertainment, Meng Meiqi and Wu Xuanyi, who placed first and second respectively, left the group two months after debut.

Despite the problems faced by groups formed from such shows, some idols were able to ride on the momentum they gained from participating.

For instance, Cai Xukun, first-place winner of Idol Producer, swiftly rose to become one of the most popular trainees on the show, consistently ranking first place in every round of elimination. He was also the host of the recently concluded Youth With You 2.

Liu Yuxin obtained first place in the last episode of Youth With You 2. (Source)

Other trainees have also seen individual success. Liu Yuxin, the first-place winner of Youth With You 2, gained attention for her androgynous look: short hair, a cool personality, and wearing shorts instead of a skirt. Her hashtag “Liu Yuxin” (#刘雨昕#) has been viewed more than 550 million times on Weibo. In the final episode, she received more than 17 million votes.

Despite the lowering audience ratings for other recent idol shows, the success of Youth With You 2 might mark the start of a new ‘idol era’. Even Chinese netizens wondered why the show is so popular compared to Youth With You 1.

Just one day after the finale premiered, the hashtag “Youth With You 2 Finale” had already been viewed more than 2.2 billion times on Weibo. On Douban, 580,000 viewers have finished the show—more than any of the previous idol survival shows by iQIYI and Tencent.

 

The Future of Idol Survival Shows 

 

Chinese idol survival shows were received with much fanfare when they first entered mainstream popular culture in 2018. But the ensuing conflicts that the resulting groups ran into resulted in netizens doubting the success and effectiveness of these shows. 

Trainees from Produce Camp 2020 practicing for the theme song. Source

This year, however, the popularity of both Youth With You 2 and Produce Camp 2020 might signal a comeback for the idol era in China.

And this time around, Chinese idol survival shows are also gaining more traction outside of the PRC, becoming more and more popular among global audiences. Both Youth With You 2 and Produce Camp 2020 have been well-received by viewers from many different countries.

On social media, online commenters praise the two shows – and Chinese idol survival shows in general – for having a more “laid-back atmosphere” between the trainees and mentors. Web users also comment that they enjoy how the shows highlight the friendship between the trainees, rather than the feuds.

It seems that what sets Chinese idol survival shows apart from the South Korean ones is precisely why some viewers prefer them. The longer running times, for example, makes it possible to give more screen time to the different trainees and to give a deeper understanding of the relations between them.

Youtube comment on Episode 1 of Produce Camp 2020. Source

Youtube comment on Episode 1 of Produce Camp 2020. Source

Reddit comment on Episode 9 of Idol Producer. Source

With the popularity of idols like Liu Yuxin and Wang Ju who challenge conventional beauty standards, shows can also look into moving away from the cookie-cutter aesthetic that idols usually adhere to. 

Furthermore, management companies and broadcasting companies have to come to an agreement regarding what scheduling arrangement would benefit all parties and be conducive towards the idols’ physical and mental health. 

Selected trainees from Produce Camp 2020 took part in a photoshoot with Elle. Source

It remains to be seen whether THE9, the newly formed group from Youth With You 2, will be able to flourish in the time to come and avoid the troubles that other groups ran into. 

As for Produce Camp 2020, it seems set to enjoy just as much success as Youth With You 2 did – if not more. Only five episodes have been released, but the show’s hashtag already has 16.1 billion views.

A reviewer on Douban writes: “The trainees are all confident, taking opportunities to express themselves and actively showcase their talents. So much youthful and positive energy!” 

The latest newcomers to the idol reality show genre further consolidate the success of the format. Recently, Mango TV released Sisters Who Make Waves (乘风波浪的姐姐们, 2020), where female celebrities above 30 years old compete to make it into the final five-member girl group. The first episode was viewed more than 370 million times within the first three days of release and immediately became top trending on Weibo.

The number of survival shows in China right now and their growing popularity shows that audiences seemingly can’t get enough of the genre. It is an indication that, despite setbacks in the past, China’s idol survival reality show genre is still going strong and might be here to stay.

You can watch the currently airing Produce Camp 2020 and Sisters Who Make Waves here and here.

By Yin Lin Tan

 Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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