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8 Best Chinese Dramas Based on Novels to Add to Your Binge-Watching Session




If you’ve been thinking about what genre to explore next, this is your sign to dive into Chinese dramas. C-dramas have experienced a massive surge in popularity in Asian and global markets and could you blame the viewers? From captivating storytelling, rich cultural storylines and production elements to exquisite sets – the Chinese drama land is your entryway into fresh and diverse content. While each C-drama offers a unique and refreshing plot, the crème de la crème of the genre is a different league altogether. And interestingly, some of the best Chinese dramas have been adapted from novels. Let’s take you through the best Chinese dramas based on novels you can watch.

Chinese content has seen growing success worldwide, especially with OTT platforms like Netflix, WeTV and more releasing many titles in select regions. Did you know that the 2018 Chinese drama The Story of Yanxi Palace became the ‘most Googled show on Earth’ during that year, despite Google being largely blocked in the country? According to a report by BBC, the show was streamed over 15 billion times across more than 70 markets. Similarly, The Untamed and Word of Honor, two Chinese Boys’ Love (BL) dramas have garnered massive fanbases after being released via OTT. So, let’s jump on the C-drama bandwagon and dig through the 10 best Chinese dramas based on novels.

Best Chinese dramas based on novels you must watch

1. Cruel Romance

Release year: 2015

Directed by: Lin Helong

Cast: Huang Xiaoming and Joe Chen

No. of episodes: 40

IMDb rating: 7.5

Synopsis: The drama has been adapted from Yi Nian’s republican novel Fate of Jinxiu. Cruel Romance will ignite the lover in you, taking you on a romantic adventure between a country girl and a triad leader in 1930s Shanghai. Rong Jin Xiu is a country girl who Travels to Shanghai to find out why her entire family was killed. Along the journey, she meets triad leader Zuo Zhen, and as fate would have it, the duo falls in love. This super cool love story is packed with outstanding action/fight scenes and truckloads of suspense to satiate your binge-watch needs.

The series was a major commercial success, becoming one of the best-rated TV dramas of the year.

2. Love O2O

Release year: 2016

Directed by: Lin Yufen

Cast: Yang Yang and Zheng Shuang

No. of episodes: 30

IMDb rating: 7.7

Synopsis: Based on the novel of the same name written by Gu Man, Love O2O is another remarkable romantic Chinese drama chronicling a tale between two college students who fall in love via an online Game. Xiao Nai is one of the most popular students on campus, excelling in everything from academics, Sports, swimming as well as gaming.

He comes across the computer Science major Bei Wei Wei, who woos him not only with her looks but with her coMMAnding presence in an online multiplayer Game they both love. The lovestruck Xiao Nai tries to capture her fancy both online and in real life. But the dorky Wei Wei isn’t one to give in easily. Will these gaming geeks end up together?

If your watchlist is saturated with too many complicated love stories, this sweet, light show will be a breath of fresh air. Moreover, it’s one of the most-watched Chinese modern dramas, with over 25.2 billion views online.

3. Nirvana In Fire

Release year: 2015

Directed by: Kong Sheng and Li Xue

Cast: Hu Ge, Liu Tao and Wang Kai

No. of episodes: 54

IMDb rating: 8.9

Synopsis: If you love historical thrillers, this one’s for you. Nirvana In Fire is based on Hai Yan’s book Lang Ya Bang, revolving around a son’s search for his family’s lost honour. Back in sixth-century China, the Emperor of Great Liang orders the execution of his brother-in-law Marshal Lin Xie, his family, his 70,000 army soldiers, and Crown Prince Qi. Lin Xie’s son, Lin Shu, secretly survives the massacre, only to return 12 years later to seek justice for the conspiracy. Will he succeed in his quest?

The drama was both a commercial and critical success. The series’ popularity ushered in the original book’s sales increase by more than 3,300 per cent on Amazon!

4. Ashes of Love

Release year: 2018

Directed by: Zhu Ruibin

Cast: Yang Zi and Deng Lun

No. of episodes: 63

IMDb rating: 8.2

Synopsis: One of the most popular Xianxia dramas of all time, Ashes of Love is based on the novel Heavy Sweetness, Ash-like Frost by Dian Xian. A gripping love triangle lies at the heart of the story, which follows a frost flower fairy who is unable to feel emotion and is caught up in a love maze with two warring deities. Ashes of Love offers a light-hearted yet grounded storyline, a well-constructed plot, beautiful cinematography and amazing performances by the ensemble cast.

5. The Princess Wei Young

Release year: 2016

Directed by: Li Huizhu

Cast: Tiffany Tang, Luo Jin, Vanness Wu

No. of episodes: 54

IMDb rating: 7.8

Synopsis: Adapted from Qin Jian’s novel The Poisonous Daughter, The Princess Wei Young offers edge-of-the-seat thrills you just can’t miss. The drama chronicles the tale of the strong and independent female lead, Northern Liang’s princess Feng Xin Er. After managing to escape her death, Feng takes on the identity of her saviour, Li Wei Young, and embarks on a journey to exact revenge on those who destroyed her kingdom. With her wisdom and sense of justice, the princess overcomes all challenges, and luckily, lands herself in a beautiful romance.

With its tight plot, strong characters and fast storyline, The Princess Wei Young will capture your fancy even if you don’t usually watch Chinese dramas or period dramas.

6. Immortality

Release year: 2021

Directed by: He Shupei

Cast: Luo Yunxi and Chen Feiyu

No. of episodes: 50

IMDb rating: 8.2

Synopsis: Get ready to transport yourself into the realm of fantasy, with the 2021 drama based on the Xianxia novel The Husky and His White Cat Shizun. The story is set in an era where the world is facing a probable demon invasion following a rift in the heavens. Braving all odds, Chu Wanning, the world’s most powerful cultivator sets out on a mission to protect humanity alongside his disciple Mo Ran. Will they be able to stop the villains’ conspiracy and protect the world?

7. The Untamed

Release year: 2019

Directed by: Zheng Weiwen and Chen Jialin

Cast: Xiao Zhan and Wang Yibo

No. of episodes: 50

IMDb rating: 8.7

Synopsis: Adapted from the danmei novel Mo Dao Zu Shi by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu, The Untamed follows the adventures of two soulmate cultivators, who solve a series of mysteries that link to a tragic event in their past. Wei Wu Xian and Lan Wang Ji meet during cultivation training, discovering a dark secret hidden for many years. As they decide to rid the world of this threat and develop a close affinity, Wei Wu Xian dies.

However, in this world of fantasy, expect the unexpected. Sixteen years later, Wei Wu Xian is brought back to life through a self-sacrificing ritual. The two soon reunite and start unravelling the mystery of the present and the tragic events of the past.

The Untamed became one of the highest-earning dramas of 2019. Its success even spawned two spin-off movies focusing on the supporting characters.

8. Word of Honor

Release year: 2021

Directed by: Cheng Zhi Chao, Ma Hua Gan, Li Hong Yu

Cast: Zhang Zhehan and Gong Jun

No. of episodes: 36 + 1 special

IMDb rating: 8.4

Synopsis: Another Wuxia wonder, Word of Honor is based on the danmei novel Faraway Wanderers by Priest. Zhou Zishu is the leader of an assassin organisation, who leaves his position in pursuit of freedom by taking drastic measures. Only having three years to live, he now tries to spend the rest of his days as a drunkard wandering the martial arts world. However, fate has other plans.

Zishu meets Wen Kexing, the leader of Ghost Valley who wants nothing but revenge for his parents’ death. The two get entangled in various conspiracies within the martial arts world and develop a soulmate connection wherein only they can redeem each other. Will the two beat all odds and find the legendary treasure while sticking together?

(Main and feature image: Courtesy IMDb)

This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia India.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

– Which is the most famous drama in China?

Some of the most popular Chinese dramas include Eternal Love, Nirvana in Fire, The Untamed and the Story of Yanxi Palace.

– What are some of the most famous Chinese novels?

Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Monkey Business: Journey to the West and Outlaws of the Marsh are some of the most popular Chinese novels.

– What are Chinese web novels?

Chinese web novels are light pieces of literature, available primarily on the internet. The stories help readers understand the traditional Chinese culture and contemporary China.