Overview of China’s 2016 Top TV Dramas

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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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

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