This year’s Harper’s Bazaar’s Charity Night took me on a trip down memory lane. With Chinese Paladin Beauties, Liu Shi Shi, Yang Mi, and Liu Yi Fei, in one frame, I knew I wasn’t the only one. On that one night, previous besties Liu Shi Shi and Yang Mi dispersed the rumours of discord, the Angelababy and Huang Xiao Ming pregnancy speculations started, and we saw Ruby Lin and Wallace Huo’s first public appearance ‘together’ after their marriage. These people, whether in lead or supporting roles, were figures in some of the biggest hit shows, both domestically and internationally during many of our youths.Take a trip down memory lane with me as we recall these dramas.
The popularity of the first drama on this list makes all the recent hit shows tiny in comparison. It successfully boosted the career of its fairly new female cast members and solidified Hunan Broadcasting Station’s position as China’s second biggest broadcasting station. 18 years later, and these actresses have soared to new heights and are respectable household names. Can you guess what drama it is?
It is none other than Princess Returning Pearl. As the most commercially successful Chinese language series of all time, this post simply couldn’t miss it. Starring Ruby Lin, Zhao Wei, Alec Su, Zhou Jie, Zhang Tielin, and Fan Bing Bing, the drama is set in the Qing Dynasty during the reign of the Qianlong emperor. I was far too young to remember the details when I initially watched it, but I can’t deny its popularity. The success of this drama has made it a pop culture reference in many films, books, and dramas today.
The 4 Chinese Classical Novels
The four Chinese classical novels comprise of Journey to the West, Dream of the Red Chamber, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and Water Margin. It’s not surprising that two of these drama adaptations would be included in this list. I personally can only attest to the fame of Journey to the West, the 1986 edition, as it’s the only one I was exposed to as a child. However, Dream of the Red Chamber (1987) was just as renowned. Both are vastly different. One will give you endless laughs, and the other will make you cry. Although the 1987 version of Dream of the Red Chamber is the only notable adaptation of the series, the 1996 version of Journey to the West was also as massively popular as the 1986 edition.
Next, we have possibly one of the greatest contributors to the modern wuxia genre, Jin Yong. Why am I mentioning an author instead of a drama? It’s because the popularity of all of Jin Yong novel adaptations would make the list massive, if I were to individually list each one.
The ones I’d like to spotlight in particular are Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils (1997 and 2003. My favourite was the 1997 series, but the 2003 was also very popular.), Legend of the Condor Heroes (All adaptations till 2008. The 2008 one has a special place in my heart because of Hu Ge, Ariel Lin, Liu Shi Shi and Yuan Hong. However, it’s not the best adaptation of the novel. I think this is the only Jin Yong adaptation for which I don’t have a stand out favourite), Return of the Condor Heroes (My favourite is the 1995 adaptation, but the 2006 was a fairly popular recent adaptation.) and The Deer and the Cauldron (My favourites are the 2000 and the 2008 edition).
Modern Day Series
Autumn Concerto, Meteor Garden, It Started With A Kiss, Smiling Pasta, Devil Beside You, Fated to Love You, and Brown Sugar Macchiato are less traditional, Taiwanese series to make this list. All romance dramas, mainly romantic comedies, these series were hugely popular internationally, and some domestically as well. Fated to Love You still holds the record for highest episode average rating in Taiwan. Before the influx in popularity of Korean dramas, these were some of the largest contributors of the spread of East Asian dramas.
The next three dramas are personal favourites of mine and are very nostalgic to me. The Young Prince of Han, boosted the popularity of Huang Xiao Ming, allowing him to join fellow members of the Three Masquerades, Zhao Wei and Chen Kun, in stardom. I remember sitting behind the sofa watching the series as my grandmother played it on television. This was because it was well past my bed time, but I just couldn’t take my eyes off the screen.
The Young Emperor, produced in 2002, is probably one of the few series on this list that most international fans have not heard of. Starring Deng Chao as the Kang Xi emperor, I remember being so intrigued as I watched the series with my father. My withdrawal symptoms for this drama started with a phase where I changed all my internet display pictures to Deng Chao.
The last of the three is The Young Warriors, starring Hu Ge, Eddie Peng, Peter Ho, Liu Shi Shi, and Amy Chan. If you’ve watched all three series, you’ll probably see the similarities and know why I enjoyed these three in particular.
The Rise of RPG
The last of this list is a series that would be what lead actor Hu Ge will be known for the next 10 years. Until the success of Nirvana in Fire, Hu Ge was vastly known as the handsome idol actor in the Chinese Paladin series. He was lead star of Chinese Paladin broadcast in 2005 and Chinese Paladin 3 broadcast in 2009. Chinese Paladin is the one series that you will find many of the current idol A-Listers. Hu Ge, Ady An, Liu Yi Fei, Yang Mi, Liu Shi Shi, Wallace Huo, Tang Yan, Yuan Hong, and the list goes on. It started the popular bromance of Wallace Huo and Hu Ge, and formed the friendship between Liu Shi Shi, Yang Mi, and Tang Yan.
There are many more dramas that I haven’t mentioned. I tried to steer away from mentioning too many TVB dramas because I felt they deserved their own list. These dramas all are like a cup of warm cocoa on a cold winter day for me. They leave me warm and fuzzy in the feeling of nostalgia. The memories of the little girl who refused to play outside, because she wanted to stay in and watch television with her grandmother, will always be ones I treasure. Which dramas give you that same feeling? Were the dramas of your youth completely different from mine? Let me know down below!