A guide for c-drama newbies


Aside from modern dramas, C-dramas are generally set in two time periods. Gu Zhuang 古装 can be translated to historical or costume. Stories set in this period take place before the Chinese Revolution of 1911 and the sky’s the limit as it offers a diverse genre of wuxia, palace politics, comedy, time travel, romance, etc. Republican dramas set in the 1930’s and 1940’s tend to focus on the Sino-Japanese war. 

What’s Hot in C-Drama?

In recent years, fantasy has become all the rage due to its capacity to win big in ratings. Who can forget Chinese Paladin back in 2005? Hunan TV freed up every 10pm on Monday and Tuesday specifically for the genre and introduced it as the Diamond time slot. Lo and behold, it turned out to be a brilliant move with the success of Sword of Legends in 2014, thanks to the overwhelming reception from a younger fanbase. Journey of Flower soared to greater heights the following year, even outdoing primetime telecasts to become the biggest money-maker during its run.
Yang Zi Li Yi Feng Zhu Xian


This year saw a multitude of dramas that adhere to a simple formula – costumes, idols and intellectual property. IP (intellectual property) is the Chinese term use to refer to adaptations of copyrighted material, namely novels. It’s been done early on if you think about the number of adaptations based on Jin Yong novels. Lately, many of the works on TV are often based on novels. 
Victoria Song in Ice Fantasy



A c-drama averages around 40, 60 or 80 episodes, making recapping practically a feat >.< Ice Fantasy has 62 episodes. It’s quite common that 2 episodes are released in one day. 

TV and Online Broadcast

One drama can air simultaneously on multiple television channels and multiple streaming sites. Web dramas that only air online can get quite popular as well – these are usually smaller productions since bigger productions with more well-known cast will usually opt for simultaneous TV and online broadcast.


Due to dialects and accents affecting spoken Chinese, dramas and movies are often dubbed by a voice actor especially if the actor’s native language is not Mandarin.

Actors That Can Dance

I found it interesting that Zhang Ziyi along with Victoria Song trained in one of the premier dance schools in China. Yet even Liu Shi Shi, Yang Yang and many other actors and actresses also had their start in dance.

Prayer ceremonies

A prayer ceremony (boot ceremony) is usually held before filming a drama or a movie, which must have hailed from strong Buddhist beliefs. Interestingly enough, I see a similar tradition when it comes to k-dramas too. 

Cut versus Uncut

Ever wonder why someone else seems to be watching a different version compared to yours? Well, broadcasters can cut or add scenes as they deem fit so you won’t know which version you’re watching exactly. If an episode seems shorter than usual, it’s a good indication that what you’re watching has been censored / cut / shortened for whatever reason and if it’s longer, maybe they added endless flashbacks to prolong the story. 


Dramas are pre-produced, typically filming for four months, giving the cast and crew ample time to perfect their craft. Shooting typically takes place in Hengdian World Studios or Shanghai Film Studio, both with sprawling grounds fitting for period dramas. On the down side, fully completed projects increase the supply pool that it becomes tough for a project to even secure an air date.


Broadcasting rights are subject to SARFT, China’s media censorship authority which makes all sorts of rules to limit time travel, fantasy, foreign productions, provocative content and whatever else they deem inappropriate.

Historical versus Modern

Most people associate wuxia with c-dramas, yet modern c-dramas are also steadily on the rise. I’ve long been a fan of the former yet the latter has been a hit or miss for me with more bad than good but the good ones are simply so good. Hint, hint… Just One Smile is Very Alluring.

Source: Baidu

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