illustration for an article about chinese dramas of two people below the shoulders, one holding a love note in her hand
Multiple Chinese dramas have universally beloved romantic themes found in unexpected places and people. (Illustration by Lucas DeJesus, Montserrat College of Art)
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illustration for an article about chinese dramas of two people below the shoulders, one holding a love note in her hand

From love triangles to high school crushes to fake relationship tropes, the genre offers options for anyone’s taste in love.

As Chinese dramas become more popular worldwide, it can be difficult to decide which shows are worth watching. Below is a ranked list of five excellent romantic Chinese dramas to help newcomers find the shows that best suit their interests.

1. Meteor Garden” (2018)

Asian drama fans should watch “Meteor Garden” if they enjoy love triangles, friendship tests, school life, drama, character development, comedy and romance.

After being admitted to the most prestigious university in the country, Dong Shancai — a kind and courageous “ordinary” student — accidentally finds trouble with Daoming Si, an aggressive and arrogant member of the exclusive clique F4. It is a close-knit group consisting of four wealthy and attractive senior students who excel at their respective fields of study.

As Shancai becomes the target of Daoming Si’s childish and cruel pranks, she breaks down multiple times. Another student with a kind nature, Huaze Lei, lends a helping hand. Shancai develops feelings for Huaze Lei, which makes the childish playboy jealous and more irritated.

After some extensive self-reflection, Daoming Si slowly seeks self-development, making him and Shancai see past their conflicts and differences. However, it isn’t easy for them to be together, as they experience trials and obstacles.

Along with the interesting yet complicated relationship between the main leads, there are other juicy and emotional romances between the strong side characters.

If the storyline sounds familiar,  that’s because “Meteor Garden” was inspired by Yoko Kamio’s manga “Hana Yori Dango/Boys Over Flowers,” along with previous adaptations called “Boys Over Flowers and “Meteor Shower / Let’s Watch The Meteor Shower.”

The main cast for “Meteor Garden” includes Shen Yue as Dong Shancai, Dylan Wang as Daoming Si, Darren Chen as Huaze Lei, Leon Leong as Feng Meizuo, Caesar Wu as Ximen Yan and Li Jia Qi as Jiang Xiaoyou.

2. “A Little Thing Called First Love” (2019)

A Little Thing Called First Love” has a different dynamic from “Meteor Garden.” It focuses on more relatable, feel-good subjects, with a shy and artistic high school junior crushing on a popular and talented senior.

The Chinese drama beautifully conveys coming-of-age stories of young first love, friendship, family, university life, transitioning into adulthood, makeovers, drama, comedy and romance.

Xia Miao Miao, the new girl in school, is timid and finds socializing difficult. A few of her new classmates attempt (but usually fail) to help Xia Miao Miao win over Liang Younian, her generous, handsome and talented acquaintance.

Due to Liang Younian’s kind and helpful nature, Xia Miao Miao decides to improve herself and slowly break out of her shell. With the help of her friends and her crush, she starts to study hard to get accepted into university, where most students (including her crush) plan to attend.

As she successfully attends the same university as him, she learns a lot about fashion and joins a few school clubs that he’s in. Her friends also give her a small makeover, making her feel more confident. As this happens, she grows closer to Liang Younian.

Like in “Meteor Garden,” there are love triangles and side romances that often have an impact on the main characters.

The main cast of “A Little Thing Called First Love” includes Angel Zhao as Xia Miao Miao, Lai Kuan Lin as Liang You Nian, Wang Run Ze as Lin Kai Tuo and Chai Wei as He Xin.

3. “I Hear You” (2019)

If you are a fan of Chinese dramas and you’re interested in contract and fake relationships with a dynamic between a cold man and a warm woman, then you should binge-watch “I Hear You.” The show conveys a story of a forced relationship between the main leads and focuses on friendship, music, comedy and romance.

Bei Er Duo, a hardworking woman, dreams of studying in Japan to be a professional voice actress, but she doesn’t have enough money to fulfill her wish. Her best friend, Tang Li, is looking for participants for a reality show. Since Bei Er Duo is desperate to raise funds to study overseas, and she wants to help her best friend, she agrees to join the couple reality program.

When she joins, she meets her partner, Ye Shuwei, a top violin maker who’s a mysterious genius in the composing and violin industry. Ye Shuwei joined the competition after losing a bet to his nephew, Yu Sheng, and he was also eager to learn the identity of the person who correctly answered his audition question.

Since the reality show holds a strong value of integrity, the couple moves in together, and they each rearrange their lives for each other. However, by doing so, they face multiple obstacles. Bei Er Duo’s mom sends her on various blind dates to find a real boyfriend, and her old high school bully comes to visit.

Just like most forced relationships in Asian dramas, this couple spontaneously falls into a wonderful romance together.

The main cast of “I Hear You” includes Rosy Zhao as Bei Er Duo and Riley Wang as Ye Shuwei.

4. “Accidentally in Love” (2018)

Accidentally in Love” is about a woman changing her identity to save herself as she slowly falls for a stoic pop star, and viewers watch as she becomes glued to her new, fake self. Thus, the show faces the issue of living a double life and how to balance your standards and the standards expected from others.

“Accidentally in Love” begins with Cheng Qing Qing escaping an arranged marriage, and the storyline is quick to roll out the drama. In just a few episodes, you will be deeply enthralled.

During her escape, Cheng Qing Qing is suddenly found needing Si Tu Feng’s help to avoid being found by her family’s bodyguards. The sudden help that Si Tu Feng could offer is a kiss. This starts their long and complicated relationship.

Chen Qing Qing enrolls in the same college where her parents studied, and she spends much of her time gathering information to find out more about their deaths. As she does so, she awkwardly meets Si Tu Feng again.

It turns out that while Cheng Qing Qing is secretly the heiress to a rich family, Su Tu Feng is a superstar with similar familial problems that get sorted throughout the show’s progression. Both of their goals don’t intertwine much; however, they are supportive of each other in ways unbeknownst to the other.

The main cast of “Accidently in Love” includes Amy Sun as Chen Qing Qing and Fiction Guo as Si Tu Feng.

 

5. “Well-Intended Love” (2019)

Unlike the other suggested Chinese dramas, the first season of “Well-Intended Love” is a lot more sentimental and emotional because the main character is ill. However, the show isn’t only melodramatic; it is also entertaining. Anyone who enjoys watching a contract marriage mixed with love triangles should watch the show’s first season.

In season one, Xia Lin, an aspiring actress, is battling leukemia. An overbearing company CEO, Ling Yi Zhou, is her only known bone marrow match, but he refuses to help her at first. Desperate, Xia Lin begs him to help. He agrees to donate his marrow to Xia Lin in return for her hand in marriage. As the couple fakes their marriage, conspiracies rise, which causes many misunderstandings and drama.

The main cast of “Well-Intended Love” includes Simona Wang as Xia Lin and Xu Kai Cheng as Ling Yi Zhou.

 

Honorable mentions include season two of “Well-Intended Love,” “A Love So Beautiful,” “Put Your Head On My Shoulder” and “Love O2O.”

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Sophie N. Munoz

University of Texas at San Antonio
English Major, concentration in Creative Writing

She/Her ~ {6w5} ~ INTJ ~ Introvert

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