Last updated on December 28th, 2022 at 09:39 am
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Since there are so many Chinese dramas out there, here is a breakdown of the 10 best Chinese historical dramas you must watch.
This list will cover different types of Chinese historical dramas including xian xia (immortal characters), fantasy and palace dramas.
You won’t want to miss out.
Warning: there will be minor spoilers ahead. The dramas are also not in a particular order or ranking.
Best Chinese Historical Dramas #1 – The Romance of Tiger and Rose
Romance of Tiger and Rose is a fast-paced romantic comedy drama with 24 episodes.
Zhao Lu Si (赵露思) plays a screenwriter named Chen Xiao Qian that gets sucked into her own screenplay. Except she’s not the main character but Hua Yuan’s city third princess, Chen Qian Qian, a character that dies early on.
The lead actor, Ding Yu Xi (丁禹兮) plays Han Shuo, a crown prince from the rival city, Xuan Hu. He came to Chen Qian Qian’s city with a plan but doesn’t follow through because he fell head over heels for her.
This series is a time-travel show with a twist.
There are many other Chinese dramas with a time travel theme including Scarlet Heart and Oh My Emperor (another drama Zhao Lu Si is in) but there’s something special about Romance of Tiger and Rose.
One of the reasons this drama got so much attention was because there are not a lot of historical dramas with a female-dominated society setting.
Qian Qian lives in Hua Yuan, a city where women hold the power whereas Han Shuo is from a typical patriarchal society (what we usually see in historical dramas).
People were probably interested to see how the drama would play out.
As for the storyline, it moves pretty quickly. The story picks up in the first episode.
Some dramas like Dance of the Sky Empire might have a slower introduction but the Romance of Tiger and Rose will have you hooked quickly.
The love story between Han Shuo and Chen Qian Qian will keep you engaged as an audience member.
Keep in mind that the Romance of Tiger and Rose is a lower-budget production. The CGI and sceneryisn’t going to be amazing compared to some of the other dramas on this list.
There is also some exaggerated acting. The humour might not be everyone’s cup of tea.
However, what you can expect is a lot of sweetness. Everything about this drama is simple, fluffy, and light-hearted, including their OST.
It’s the perfect drama to watch if you need some self-love time.
2) Legend of Yun Xi
The Legend of Yun Xi is about Han Yun Xi’s arranged marriage with the prince, Long Fei Ye. Although she has a scar on her face and is considered ‘ugly,’ she is a kind-hearted person knowledgeable in medicine, especially poison.
Yun Xi comes from a wealthy and respectable family but didn’t grow up in the best home environment. Not only did her mother die when she was young, but she was also mistreated by her stepmother and sister. Despite all of that, she remains an optimistic and nice person.
When the drama aired, it certainly got many people’s attention. The drama was based on a novel. Book fans probably wanted to see if the show would stay true to the story.
Another part of its success was due to the female lead, Ju Jing Yi (鞠婧祎). She is a former girl group member (SNH48) so she has a solid fan base already from her singing career.
Jing Yi is also known for her beauty. She has this delicate and feminine look to her that is suitable to play the good girl character in historical dramas.
Her acting partner, Zhang Zhe Han (张哲瀚)’s character, Long Fei Ye is cautious and standoffish. He eventually grows warmer due to Yun Xi’s influence.
The characters might seem stereotypical but the story itself is not.
Yun Xi and Fei Ye get married very early on in the drama. They are strangers at first but you see their love story growing as husband and wife.
There’s also something abnormal about Long Fei Ye that makes him different that the rest of the characters in the story (you have to watch more to find out what it is exactly).
The Legend of Yunxi gained popularity due to its storyline and actors.
Fans loved Ju Jing Yi and Zhang Zhe Han as an onscreen couple so much that they paired up again a few years later in another Chinese historical drama called The Blooms at Ruyi Pavilion.
3) Three Lives Three Worlds, Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms
When it comes to the best Chinese historical dramas, you can’t miss out on Three Lives Three Worlds, Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms (also called Eternal Love).
It is one of the most well-known Chinese dramas out there.
Eternal Love is a love story that spans over three lives in three worlds.
The first life is between Bai Qian, a highly respected goddess of the Fox clean and Mo Yuan. She pretends to be a male, Si Yin to be accepted as Mo Yuan’s disciple.
The second life is when Bai Qian gets sent to the mortal realm. She is now a human called Su Su. These episodes focus on her love line with Ye Hua, the crown prince of the heavenly realm.
The third life is Bai Qian with Ye Hua. She forgot her life as Su Su while he discovers her true identity and tries to get his lost love back.
This might sound like a complicated storyline but once you watch the drama, it’s pretty easy to follow.
The main female lead, Yang Mi (杨幂) shows off her wonderful acting ability as she had to portray three extremely different characters: Si Yin, Bai Qian, and Su Su.
There’s a reason she’s an A-list actress.
The secondary couple, Bai Feng Jiu and Dong Hua Di Jun are also worth mentioning.
Di Jun is one of the oldest gods in heaven and is indifferent to almost everything. His life changes when he saves Feng Jiu one day. She gets entangled with him as she insists on repaying his kindness.
Di Jun and Feng Jiu became an unexpected fan favourite couple. They even have a spinoff drama about their love story, Eternal Love of Dream.
Everything in Eternal Love is visually appealing from its scenic background, the costumes, and the actors.
Even their OST became one of the most recognizable Chinese songs, 凉凉.
Eternal Love might have a few cliches like a female going undercover and an amnesia plotline. However, there’s a reason why this drama received critical acclaim and sky-high ratings.
4) Ashes of Love
This drama, along with Eternal Love are the two best Chinese historical dramas around the 2016-2019 period.
Ashes of Love is about the flower deity’s daughter, Jin Mi. Her dying mom foresaw her going through a love trial and fed her a pill when she was born to prevent her from feeling any sort of romantic love. This causes a problem when she meets Xu Feng, the second prince of the heavenly realm.
Due to the pill and the people around her being overprotective, Jin Mi is naïve and sheltered (she’s similar to Xuan Ji in Love and Redemption).
She is extremely clueless in the beginning. It might be hard to watch those few episodes but be patient with the character. She doesn’t always stay like this.
The actress who played Jin Mi, Yang Zi (杨紫) had a tough role to pull off. She went from being dense and ignorant to being absolutely heartbroken and determined.
The male lead in Ashes of Love is Deng Lun (邓伦). He’s pretty close to being an ideal man.
Although he is proud and arrogant, he shows a softer side towards Jin Mi. It’s a side of him only the female lead can see. He was completely smitten early on and was in tune with his feelings.
He gained many fans through this series due to his character, Xu Feng.
Another notable character in the series is Run Yu, Xu Feng’s older brother. He went from being kind and gentle to vengeful. Although he wasn’t a main character, Luo Yun Xi (罗云熙) stood out for his portrayal of the character.
These three all go through huge character development changes (they are also involved in a love triangle).
Ashes of Love is a romance drama that will take an emotional toll on you. This drama might seemingly be light-hearted in the beginning but it takes a sharp and serious turn later on.
It also takes commitment to finish as it is the longest show on this list with 63 episodes.
If you like the supporting characters from this drama, the good news is that Yun Xi has another drama called And The Winner is Love with Chen Yuqi (陈钰琪), and Zou Ting Wei (鄒廷威) (the latter two plays a couple in Ashes of Love).
For Yang Zi fans, you can also watch her in The Oath of Love, a modern Chinese drama that came out in 2022.
5) The Journey of Flower
The story revolves around Hua Qian Gu and Bai Zi Hua. Hu Qian Gu goes to Chang Liu and becomes Bai Zi Hua’s only disciple.
It’s a forbidden love story between a master and a disciple.
Qian Gu starts out being a sweet and kind character everyone loves. Towards the end of the drama, she goes from being an innocent girl to the ‘evil’ devil God.
She suffered from too much pain and loss to be the happy Qian Gu anymore.
Zhao Li Ying (赵丽颖) was perfectly cast as Hu Qian Gu. Li Ying has a baby face, which allowed her to play her character convincingly.
Her acting wasn’t overbearing when being cute, something that is really hard to achieve (a large part of it is probably due to her young-looking appearance).
Her transformation is easily one of the highlights of the drama (although some people had a hard time seeing her play a devil God).
Although Li Ying had some success with her previous dramas, Journey of Flower helped her achieve nationwide fame, establishing the top star she is today.
Then, we have our male lead, Bai Zi Hua, played by Wallace Huo (霍建华).
Zi Hua is a revered immortal who doesn’t show a lot of emotions. He’s a righteous guy that puts his duty to the world above all else.
Zi Hua cares for Qian Gu deeply but cannot outwardly express his affections.
The love story between the two is unique compared to typical romance dramas. There are no obvious lovey-dovey cheesy scenes.
The romance between Bai Zi Hua and Hua Qian Gu isn’t loud. His way of showing love for Qian Gu is extremely subtle to the point where she couldn’t even tell he loved her until the end.
A con about the drama is the technology.
The show did come out a long time ago so the technology isn’t as advanced. You might cringe at the CGI.
On the bright side, the industry has made loads of progress since then.
It also didn’t stop the Journey of Flower being a classic historical Chinese drama.
6) The Legend of Lu Zhen
This is another drama with Zhao Li Ying, although this drama came out two years ago before Journey of Flower.
(If you like Zhao Li Ying in historical Chinese dramas, there’s also The Story of Ming Lan, Princess Agents and Noble Inspiration.)
To escape her family, Lu Zhen (Zhao Li Ying) enters the palace as a maid and has a love line with the crown prince, Gao Zhan. Although they cannot get married due to political reasons, she becomes the female prime minister, helping Gao Zhan rule the country.
The story focuses on the female lead, Lu Zhen’s rise up the ranks from a maid to a female prime minister.
She is a strong and determined heroine who meets and falls in love with Gao Zhan, a lonely prince.
Lu Zhen wasn’t aware of who Gao Zhan was when they first met outside the Palace. He hid his identity from her because he had to protect himself from those who wanted to chase him down.
The crown prince has a hard time trusting people. Growing up in the palace meant schemes were a part of his daily routine.
He behaved more freely with Lu Zhen because she didn’t know who he was. His identity wasn’t weighing him down so she got to know him as a person rather than his title.
Their romance is sweet but also messy because they are involved in a love square.
The empress is in love with Gao Zhan because they were a couple in their youth. When she married the emperor, her heart remained loyal to him. Meanwhile, the emperor had always loved her.
When you add Lu Zhen into the mix, it’s a whole lot of complicated.
Although there are many possible reasons on why Gao Zhan and his brother, the emperor would be rivals, there’s no rivalry between the two of them.
In fact, the bromance between the emperor and Gao Zhan can even be considered a highlight in the drama.
What made the Legend of Lu Zhen so popular was because of Zhao Li Ying and Chen Xiao (陈晓), who played the crown prince.
They have amazing chemistry, matched visually and are the same age. They were such a popular pairing that there was speculation that these two dated in real life.
A drama to watch if you like to watch palace dramas with a handsome male lead and a pretty female lead.
7) Prince of Lan Ling
Prince of Lan Ling is another oldie drama but is still worth talking about.
The two main characters are Gao Chang Gong, the Prince of Lan Ling and Yang Xue Wu, the last priestess of her clan.
Xue Wu’s grandmother foresaw that there was trouble in her granddaughter’s life. Although grandmother wanted to protect Xue Wu from outside conflict, she still meets Gao Chang Gong, the handsome God of War in the Northern Qi dynasty.
They fall for one another even though she was not destined to be his wife. There was a prophecy that he would only have one wife because of his upbringing.
Ariel Lin (林依晨) has some impressive dramas under her belt like It Started with a Kiss, The Little Fairy, and In Time With You.
In the Prince of Lan Ling, she plays a convincing Xue Wu and was cast perfectly for this role. Ariel has a baby face so she can portray a kind character, just like Zhao Li Ying.
The Prince of Lan Ling, Feng Shao Feng (冯绍峰) should be a familiar face. Feng Shao Feng paired up with Yang Mi (actress in Eternal Love) as they played a couple over and over again in many dramas. He also paired up with Zhao Li Ying before and even married her.
He also has a lot of acting experience under his belt. His character in this drama is similar to the character he played in Palace (2011), the eighth prince (he does play other characters where he’s not royalty, btw).
The main villain, Zhen Er stood out as a supporting character. She went overboard but is certainly memorable.
Her love for the Prince of Lan Ling was unrequited. She schemes for her wish to come true but unfortunately for her, he has no interest in her whatsoever.
Zhen Er is a complex character. She went through a lot of pain so the audience might have some sympathy for her. There were moments when she showed a humane side.
However, after all she has done to the other characters, she hardly redeemed herself.
The actress did a pretty good job of making the audience hate the character.
After all these years, Prince of Lan Ling is still one of the best Chinese historical dramas out there. But for some reason, it’s not as popular as some of the other Chinese dramas.
Now that you’ve read this list, you know about this little gem and can go watch it.
Best Chinese Historical Dramas #8 – Love and Redemption
Although there is a separate drama review blog post for Love and Redemption, this drama is too good not to be included on the best Chinese historical dramas list.
This drama is about Chu Xuan Ji’s journey of finding her six senses as she was born without them. She meets the masked Yu Si Feng, a skilled martial arts prodigy in his sect, Li Ze Palace.
Xuan Ji is oblivious to almost everything. She’s not good at martial arts and doesn’t get things normal people do.
Si Feng is the opposite of Xuan Ji. He is smart and a fast learner.
He is also patient with her as she knows she’s a bit different. The scenes of her unintentionally flirting and seducing him were hilarious.
He fell for her pretty early in the drama. Once that happened, he was a goner.
He goes all in for her including making huge sacrifices for her. Together, they have a beautiful love story.
Love and Redemption was a turning point for both leads, Cheng Yi and Yuan Bing Yan in terms of their acting career. Both were relatively unknown before this drama.
Si Feng played by the actor Cheng Yi (成毅) is probably the best actor on this list. He acts with his eyes, captivating the audience.
Xuan Ji played by Yuan Bing Yan (袁冰妍) isn’t a bad actress but Cheng Yi shined too brightly for her to showcase her acting ability.
(Fortunately, she had another drama after Love and Redemption called My Sassy Princess that did show another side of her. In that series, she plays a spoiled princess whose character is completely different than Xuan Ji.)
Love and Redemption got their name out there in the public.
The drama takes the idea of three popular Chinese dramas (Ashes of Love, Eternal Love, and the Journey of Flower) and adds its own spin.
Xuan Ji might remind you of the character Jinmi from Ashes of Love, especially in the beginning part. They are both ignorant and clueless.
Similar to Journey of Flower, both female lead characters undergo this transformation from being soft and sweet to stronger heroine.
Love and Redemption’s story also takes place across several lifetimes like Eternal Love.
If you haven’t watched this drama yet, you totally should.
Final Thoughts – Best Chinese Historical Dramas
Chinese historical dramas are making a name for themselves around the world.
The Chinese entertainment industry isn’t playing around when it comes to their dramas. You can clearly tell that they put the time and money into their shows.
Their efforts are paying off too.
Chinese dramas are still continuing to grow globally.
More people need to be introduced to the world of c-dramas because they’re totally missing out. Am I right or what?
Once you jump into that rabbit hole, there’s no turning back. They are that entertaining and addicting.
There’s just something about Chinese historical dramas that capture your attention. It’s a mix between dialogue, costumes and elaborate production sets.
I am confident that the Chinese entertainment industry will continue to produce stunning and captivating historical Chinese dramas (modern ones too).
In the meantime, watch (or re-watch) these Chinese dramas to cure your boredom when you’re at home or if you’re in a bad mood.
Now to You – Best Chinese Romance Dramas
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P.S. You may have noticed that there are 8 dramas on this list. There’s a reason for it. Chinese culture absolutely loves the number 8. Since I’m dedicating a blog post to Chinese dramas, I thought, ‘why not write a list of 8 dramas?’