A look at 2012: C-drama Edition (Updated)

Chinese DramasDrama ReviewsEnd of the Year Reviews

This year in c-dramas.

The must-watch

The Legend of Zhen Huan (Zhen Huan Zhuan)

Watch this if…

  • You like Chinese palace dramas
  • You’re willing to watch a darker c-drama without a happy ending
  • You like great acting
  • You want to gaze at the gorgeous costumes of the Qing Dynasty
  • You like dark and serious dramas

It’s no secret that I absolutely love The Legend of Concubine Zhen Huan.  I really thought no drama could ever top my beloved Bu Bu Jing Xin, but omg.  Now that I’m into the Legend of Zhen Huan, it’s like I can never go back.  It’s a masterpiece!  It really goes above and beyond your usual palace c-drama with quality acting, costumes/sets, and a gripping plot.  I have nothing but respect for Sun Li (the lead actress) who is extraordinary in portraying the nuances of her character Zhen Huan.  She also has a very strong supporting cast such as Ada Choi and Jiang Xin that make the drama enjoyable to watch. 

I guess you could say that the LZH redefines the usual harem drama by showing the darker side of the palace life.  It shows that living in the harem wasn’t all butterflies and bunnies, where the emperor loves all the concubines and they live happily ever after. Instead it’s heavily influenced by politics and the concubines who are pulling the strings behind the scenes.  Ultimately the concubines are simply trying to survive, for the sake of their families and their own reputation.  It’s fascinating to see the concubines’ brilliant minds at work, but also sad to see just how much pain they have in their lives because of their status.

The feel-good romance

SOP Queen

Watch this if…

  • You need a preppy, feel-good drama
  • You love Zhang Han!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • You want to see something new from Chen Qiao En.

SOP Queen is a very polished and cute romance.  At first I was really drawn in by the drama because of the strong cast and the quirky storyline.  It felt really fresh and fun to watch.  Plus Zhang Han as Tang Jun is ADORABLE, I cannot get over how handsome and cute he is!  This is also Chen Qiao En at one of her best moments because she finally gets the chance to play a more mature character.   Unfortunately I started to fade out as I began to feel a bit of a disconnect.  As in, it was nice to see a fairytale but could I really relate to the Xiao Jie (the main character)?  No.  Somehow, SOP Queen has all those right elements of a rom-com there, but it just doesn’t translate into a must-watch. 

Drama Go Go Go

Watch this if…

  • You want a fresh rom-com
  • You want a Jiro + Lin Geng Xin rivalry and BROMANCE
  • You like innocent, pure heroines & woman’s mid-life romance crisis dramas
  • You want a really draggy story in the second half
  • You can tolerate the heroine being wishy washy and frustrating for like, the entire second half of the drama T__T YES, SOMEONE IS BITTER. (ME)


(Note that when I first wrote up this review, I had only started watching DGGG so I couldn’t give it an overall rating.  This has been updated:) Like SOP Queen, Drama Go Go Go got off to a great start.  It has a great cast with Ruby Lin, Jiro, and LIN GENG XIN.  How could I not watch, right?  At first I was totally addicted but the drama began to slowly (or quickly?) unravel starting around episode 15.  UGH!!!  I really loved the main heroine’s character at first but eventually she was just SO indecisive, so wishy washy and moody and had the “I love him but I shouldn’t, woe is me” mentality that I couldn’t watch any longer.  Points for the good start, but nay for the draggy second half.   My dear Lin Geng Xin was totally underutilized!!!!!!!!!!!!

The mediocre, the bad, and the unwatched

Beauties of the Tang Palace

Watch this if..

  • You like the Tang Dynasty costumes
  • You are a Ming Dao fan
  • You want a plot that attempts to be intriguing and exciting, but ends up failing
  • You are ok with mediocre acting

I picked up Beauties of the Tang Palace earlier this year.  I was drawn in by the costumes (some are beautiful, others are horrible.  Depends on the character) and the unique plot.  A palace maid schemes to save a condemned empress from her execution.  Sounds exciting right?  Well at first I enjoyed seeing the main character trying to work her way out of the palace.  However I felt like there was not that much character development..and I couldn’t really tell where the drama was going.  I think the drama had good intentions with the sorta suspenseful plot but it could’ve been a lot better.

Beauties of the Emperor

Watch this if…

  • You want to see the chemistry between Ming Dao & Chen Qiao En

I wasn’t that impressed by this drama even though it stars MD and CQE.  After the first few episodes, I decided I just wasn’t interested enough to continue watching.  I was way too turned off by Chen Qiao En’s character. It was like every minute, she’s going on and on..”I WILL ONLY MARRY FOR TRUE LOVE!  I WILL BE A STRONG AND INDEPENDENT WOMAN!  I WILL NOT DEPEND ON MEN!”  Of course, who doesn’t want a strong female character?  Who doesn’t want some girl power and breaking free of the social norms?  (Girl power, all the way!) But REALLY?  She feels like a modern woman in ancient times.  They might’ve well just made her another time traveller or something.  It is great she is representing girl power but realistically, would she really have held such strong views back in the day?  Oh, and the whole dressing up as a guy so she can pretend to be her dad’s son part….*FACEPALM*

Beauties Without Tears

Watch this if..

  • You are a diehard fan of Yu Zheng dramas.
  • You like pretty costumes
  • …………………….

Even the pretty costumes were not enough to keep me watching this one.  Seems like a very YuZheng-esque drama..overacting, vibrant colors, frustrating characters.  Not my cup of tea.

War of Desire

Watch this if…

  • You like the servant-becomes-powerful-concubine plot
  • You are a diehard Zhang Han fan and don’t mind if his character is not that..bright..
  • …………..

At first I didn’t include this in my review, but now I’ve added it because I decided to continue watching it.  This is not the kind of drama that I can watch every minute of, but I am curious enough to quickly go through all the episodes for the best scenes.  I have this fascination with the palace dramas where a poor servant becomes the emperor’s favorite and most powerful concubine, but have yet to find a drama that makes it an amazing concept.  This drama tries hard, but also has some bad acting, over the top costumes, etc.  Unfortunately Zhang Han & Zheng Shuang have the most annoying characters ever, and the emperor is a jerk. T_T  I ended up dropping it.

Xuan Yuan Sword

Watch this if…

  • You can stand Chinese RPG dramas’ CG effects
  • You are a fan of..Hu Ge, LSS, LGX, Tang Yan

Xuan Yuan Sword was one of the big cdramas of the year, and yet I was left unimpressed. I wanted something that would raise the bar for fantasy c-dramas, and yet it didn’t really stand out.  The CG effects, action, and acting was not that much different from your usual Chinese RPG dramas.  Its main strength is..surprise surprise, its cast.  Really, are you watching it for LSS?  HG?  It seems most of its fanbase is, in fact, devoted fans of the main cast members.  Really if it did not have such big names I doubt it would do so well.  But on a brighter note, I enjoyed LSS and Tang Yan’s wardrobe which was quite beautiful.

Xing Ming Shi Ye

Watch this if..

  • You’re a Wallace or a Nicky fan
  • You want to see Wallace as a Chinese Jack Sparrow
  • You like a strong-willed heroine

Ok, so Wallace is dressed up like Jack Sparrow and then they’re all “OHHH HE’S FROM ITALY!”  Me: “WHAT?”  And Nicky is this sort of Sherlock Holmes guy.  And the heroine is in love with Nicky’s character but then she can’t get married because of Wallace’s character.  Confusing much?  I guess I’m trying to say that this is the kind of drama I watch out of plain curiosity, to see just where the heck they are going with this.  I also think the OT3 is very interesting.  But, if you are a Wallace & Nicky fan, I heard it’s worth watching just for them.  Go figure.  *runs off to gaze at Wallace & Nicky*


C-dramas have been steadily improving in quality, acting & originality, and I’m glad that people are beginning to see their potential.  Clearly China can do palace dramas like no other, and it’s proven that through its latest masterpiece the Legend of Zhen Huan.  However it’s also showing what it can do in the rom-com genre with the lighthearted SOP Queen and Drama Go Go Go.  Lately I’m really enjoying the cast selection for c-dramas because they are very strong and the actors/actresses play off each others’ characters very well.   Overall I’d say it’s a good year for c-dramas, and we’re looking forward to the upcoming dramas of 2013!

Got any c-dramas I didn’t mention?  Comment below!  Also let me know what your favorite c-dramas of 2012 are!


I'm heisui, an Asian drama blogger and the creator of My Drama Tea. I love stories and writing, so I watch dramas and blog. I especially have a penchant for Japanese and Chinese dramas, and those hidden gems that are waiting to be discovered. Oh, and I'm Legend of Zhen Huan-obsessed!
A look at 2012: J-drama Edition
Drama Go Go Go: Eps 9-13
  • I have yet to watch ZH, if it’s as good as you mention, then I’ll definitely check it out this year, I think the only thing that’s put me off is the length of the series, and the the fact that it’s dark. What can I say, I like fluffy bunnies ^^,

    I agree on pretty much all you’ve said on the other dramas, I think I liked SOP a tinch more, and that’s probably because of the guys. Zhang Hans smile is incredibly sweet, and Godfrey oozes manly, but the fact that this series has got a spinoff with him and Zheng Shuang again, is too much for me. They should have just left it as it was.

    • It’s a great drama but I can see why it might not appeal to some people. Like you said it’s really long and it’s not all that happy >.<

      For SOP Queen I wasn't quite impressed by Godfrey's acting but ZHANG HAN!!! AHHHHHH!!!! But a sequel just sounds like they're pushing it too much T_T

  • I wanted to watch the Drama Go Go Go but it wasn’t at the top of my list. Now I’ll probably move it up to the top after your recommendation! I LOVED ZH!! Such evil scheming ahhh love it. I hated the empress so much when I saw her evil mastermind-trying-to-make-everyone-not-able-to-have-children side! Jiang Xin was also a wonderful HuaFei – her eye rolls and the way she walks! Watching Sun Li go from a innocent girl to a dominating and powerful woman was so inspiring! Although I thought the makeup was a bit much towards the end. ahha

    I didn’t get Tang Gong Beauties of the World much either…it reminded me of Prison Break LOL and Beauties without tears was…ehh..ohkay for me. I loved HaiLanZhu’s character and this drama introduced me to the actress Zhang Meng so I guess I got something from this drama? I love Hawick so I basically watched it for him.

    Have you watched 倾世皇妃? I thought it was prettygood with Ruby Lin, Wallace Hua, and Yuan Kuan. I’m watching 倾城绝恋 right now and I would recommend it but its REALLY sad.

    • I’d say that the beginning of Drama Go Go Go is way better than the later half of it. It’s pretty good up to around episode 14 or so, but then starts to drag.

      YES, LZH is my favorite of 2012 by far! Like you said all of the characters are amazing.

      I also heard that most people watched Beauties Without Tears for Hawick so I’m not that surprised. I have heard of Qing Shi Huang Fei (and was pretty excited for the male leads) but I heard it was overdramatic? I haven’t heard of the other one but from the looks of it, it’s a Mickey He drama. Unfortunately I’m not a big fan of Mickey, he is in WAY too many dramas.

  • Ahaa yes. It was pretty overdramatic. The costumes and actors we’re nice and all but there are times where you’re like; was that really necessary?

    I agree, Yu Zheng used Mickey He A LOT. He did the same to Yang Mi but atleast she was a supporting actress in his films. Mickey He has the lead in everything! (It’s just that I see him everywhere now…) I guess Yuan Shan Shan is appearing on TV a lot more often too. The Next Yu Zheng Victim?

    • Hmm I didn’t take notice of Yuan Shan Shan but that might be because I haven’t watched many dramas of hers. Or maybe I’m just bad at recognizing her. T_T Mickey He, I can recognize him really easily because he always looks the same.

      I’m kinda surprised Yang Mi hasn’t made more of a splash ever since her success in Gong…even though she has starred in new dramas since then..

  • Thank you so much for the post~!! I was thinking of checking The Legend of Zhen Huan, now i’ll surely will, despite the length. Also yes, yes, yes, i too wanna watch the Beauties of the Emperor so so much, i will check again if any kind person with subtitles showed up~ What a pity for Beauties of the Tang Palace, i would give it a try just for the costumes (might do just for this)

    • Yup I definitely recommend LZH! Just remember it is a much heavier and more serious kind of palace drama. >_<

      Actually Beauties of the Emperor is out with subs, I tried the first few episodes but didn't get that into it. I think the costumes might be better than Beauties of the Tang Palace though.

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