The Best Chinese Dramas of 2023 (So Far)

Shows like ‘The Long Season,’ ‘Three-Body,’ and ‘The Knockout’ have the highest Douban ratings from the first half of the year

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3:02 PM HKT, Thu July 20, 2023 2 mins read

From new adaptations of beloved stories to murder mystery dramas, the first half of 2023 has seen an exciting array of highly-rated Chinese shows arriving on streaming platforms everywhere.

Tencent’s Three-Body, a long-awaited adaptation of Liu Cixin’s sci-fi novel The Three-Body Problem, as well as hit suspense series The Long Season, top the list with high Douban ratings and massive audiences.

Others have also racked up impressive ratings, with one — The Knockout — taking the cake as possibly the most talked-about show of 2023.

Without further ado, here are the best Chinese dramas from the first half of 2023.

The Long Season (漫长的季节)

Released on April 22, The Long Season is a fast-paced, suspenseful drama about a taxi driver trying to solve a brutal murder that rocked his small town twenty years prior.

Unlike many Chinese dramas, The Long Season has just twelve episodes, an embrace of the HBO-esque short prestige drama format. These twelve episodes, though, are enough for the show’s director, Xin Shuang, to paint a rich, wistful portrait of a fictional Northeast China town and family.

The elegiac realism of The Long Season won over Chinese audiences, who have given the show a rarely-seen Douban rating of 9.4/10. “[The Long Season] is a panoramic portrait of a group of people, with a palpable sense of history,” one reviewer wrote.

Audiences can find The Long Season with English subtitles on YouTube and Tencent Video.

Three-Body (三体)

Though there are already at least two adaptations of The Three-Body Problem (with one from Netflix on the way), Tencent’s Three-Body is the first to truly satisfy discerning fans of the Liu Cixin novel — though the Minecraft animation certainly had its appeal. The 30-episode Three-Body hews closely to the plot of its namesake novel, which is the first of a trilogy; the cast is also stacked with well-known actors like Zhang Luyi and Wang Ziwen.

The show follows a nanomaterials expert named Wang Miao who begins investigating a string of mysterious suicides connected to a video game, which ultimately reveals an existential threat to humanity.

This sprawling sci-fi epic has a Douban score of 8.7/10, with nearly 400,000 ratings. Watch it on Youtube, Tencent Video, or Rakuten Viki.

Meet Yourself (去有风的地方)

China’s ‘fairy sister,’ Liu Yifei, is the star of this romantic drama about starting over in your 30s. In Meet Yourself, Liu’s character, distraught over the untimely death of her best friend, moves to a rural village where she heals and falls in love with another big city transplant, played by a dreamy Li Xian.

With a rating of 8.7/10, Meet Yourself is popular for its emotional focus and its charming rural setting, and, of course, Liu, who has some 70 million followers on Weibo. In some ways, the show also exemplifies the ‘lying flat’ trend, letting audiences know that they're not the only ones who want to give up on the corporate rat race.

Find Meet Yourself on Apple TV or Rakuten Viki.

The Knockout (狂飙)

Crime drama The Knockout took the Chinese internet by storm when it began streaming in January, becoming so popular that it temporarily crashed streaming platform iQIYI. The 39-episode drama follows a two-decade power struggle between a policeman and the leader of a criminal gang in the fictional city of Jinghai.

Suspenseful, gritty, and unafraid of depicting deeper societal flaws, The Knockout was an instant hit. Now, with over 840,000 ratings, it has an 8.5/10 on Douban, signifying its vast appeal. You can watch it on iQIYI.

An Ancient Love Song (古相思曲)

The newest drama on this list, An Ancient Love Song is about a historical fiction author who gets transported back to the era of one of his stories, though he discovers his subject, an empress named Lu Yuan, is nothing like the history books described her. Surprisingly, the 14-episode drama is based on a fan-made video edit uploaded to Bilibili; the original video became so popular that Bilibili commissioned the show.

With a rating of 8.5/10, An Ancient Love Song has been praised for its cinematography, heart-wrenching plot, and strong female lead. Audiences can stream it on Rakuten Viki.

Cover image via IMDb

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