Let’s face it, China isn’t known for producing high-quality TV series. A lot of Chinese TV shows feature bad acting, cheesy plots, and cringy storylines. It’s easy to watch a couple of Chinese TV shows and decide you never want to watch another one again.
Even a lot of Chinese people would prefer to watch American TV series like Friends, Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad than the locally made shows.
For years I have avoided watching Chinese TV series. I felt it was a shame as watching a good TV show in Chinese could be a great way to improve listening skills and learn new vocabulary, but still, having never found a show I liked during my time in Beijing, I just surrendered myself to the belief that all Chinese TV shows suck… until now.
Lately, everything has begun to change regarding my belief about Chinese TV and I want to share this with all of you.
Don’t get me wrong, the vast majority of Chinese TV shows are, well, pretty terrible. However, if you are determined enough and look hard enough, you will discover, just like I did, that there are some AMAZING shows out there as well.
I’m working on a longer post where I’m planning to review more shows that I have found but seeing as I haven’t had enough time to watch them all yet, I’m just going to talk about three shows that I feel are well worth a watch (especially if you’re learning Mandarin!).
如果蜗牛有爱情 (When a Snail Falls in Love)
When a snail falls in love is a crime/romance drama series. It’s easily watchable and not in the least bit cringy. The show is about solving crimes. The female lead in the show is XuXu, a criminal profiler from the psychology unit – she is presented as somewhat of a ‘Sherlock Holmes’ type characters – having the ability to read situations and infer meaning where others cannot. The male lead, Ji Bai, is the captain of the unit. He is a strong male character, fun to watch and capable of kicking some ass.
The show features a gripping plot, with well-written storylines for each episode.
This show won’t let you down.
白夜追凶 (Day and Night)
“Guan Hong Yu, who has been set up by someone else as a murderer of killing a family of five, starts the journey of sharing the same identity with his twin brother Guan Hong Feng (former commander of Jin Gang police station) in order to find out the real mastermind.”
Chinese TV series aren’t known for being high-quality. A lot of them have bad plots, cheesy acting and flat characters. However, Day and Night is a truly brilliant series which can definitely be compared to some of the best US shows and series today.
The overarching theme of this show is good vs evil. Yue Ming Pan stars in this drama, playing the role of not one but two characters – twin bothers Guan Hong Yu and Guan Hong Feng as they work to catch a criminal mastermind.
If you enjoy crime thrillers then Day and Night is for you. Oh, and did I mention it has a score of 8.6 on IMDB? Whaaaat.
This show is essentially a knock-off of hit US sitcom, FRIENDS. It features canned laughter; it’s cheesy and it’s predictable. So, why would you want to watch it then?! Well, it’s surprisingly lovable. The show is on to its 4th season now and follows the lives of 7 20 something-year olds as they struggle through life.
If you’re into off the wall, exaggerated plot lines, cheesy humor and acting so bad it’s funny, then give iPartment a chance! You may be pleasantly surprised.
Yes, I know, I’m recommending the exact type of show I said earlier that I can’t stand! While it’s true that this show falls into the category of “cringy with bad acting”, it’s also true that this show will actually make you laugh! Give it a go. If you hate it, don’t watch it.
How watching Chinese TV shows can improve your Chinese:
Apart from the obvious benefits such as listening practice and learning new words, Chinese TV shows will give you a window into life in China. Understanding Chinese culture and daily life in China will go along way to helping you improve your Chinese language skills.
Watching Chinese TV shows will also help you learn common colloquial expressions and funny slang which textbooks won’t teach you!
Ever wondered how Chinese people learn phrases like ‘oh my God’? I am willing to bet that it’s mostly from watching American TV series like Friends. Like I said before, textbooks will only teach you the ‘proper’ form of the language. If you want to learn how people actually speak day-to-day, on the street, then watching Chinese TV shows is very beneficial.
Lastly, if you find a show you enjoy, then watching it daily becomes a form of entertainment, not a study activity. In our e-book, I talk about the importance of integrating Chinese into your daily life and watching Chinese TV series is a good start!
There’s no reason that studying Chinese has to be a chore. You can make it enjoyable. In fact, it should be enjoyable.
Above, I have listed three interesting Chinese shows to start you on your path of discovering the hidden gems of Chinese TV. Like I said, I’ll be following up this post with a much longer, much more comprehensive look at the best Chinese TV shows, so make sure to subscribe to our email list to be notified when that (or any other future posts) are released. Oh, and if you do subscribe, you’ll get an awesome Chinese phrase book too!