de Estelll, Fevereiro 2, 2021

Since we’re now a month into 2021 and the dust has finally settled, the time is ripe for a rewind of 2020 Chinese dramaland!

In this article, I’ll try to identify the main trends of Chinese dramas that came out in 2020, and I’ll also suggest some representative dramas within each trend for you to sampleand finally, there will be a ranking of sorts.

But first, here are two disclaimers

1. The "Ranking" I’m showing here (countdown from drama #10 to drama #1) is just for fun, it doesn’t necessarily indicate any quantifiable or objective criteria to compare the value or quality of these dramas, and is based on a MDL Voting List I made and shared over the 2nd half of the year. Your fellow MDL’ers simply voted these dramas the most as recommendations of 2020 Chinese dramas worth watching. In other words, don’t come to me if your favorite drama isn’t as high as you’d like, or didn’t make the cut! 
2. The "2020 Trends" I’m showing here are just my personal observations on some of the things (genres, themes, styles, plots, other) that were common in Chinese dramas throughout 2020. I’m not an expert, I’m not a scholar, this is not some kind of thesis on Chinese drama marketing, nor a masterclass on classification. I’m simply someone who loves Chinese dramas and follows the news on them, so it may very well be incomplete or inaccurate!  

Now on to the sampler! :)

 Trends of 2020 

Note: All dramas mentioned are voted in my list "2020 Chinese Dramas Sampler", but the eventual selection for the "samples" was made by me. All images/gifs link to the drama they're from.

Historical Mysteries

Ancient Detective

2020 gave a rise to many mystery, detective, or investigation-based dramas that are set to days of yore.

Even the more romance-focused costume dramas often had some kind of mystery or crime that the main leads were investigating that drove the plot (and their relationship) forward.

Samples: See Top 10 plus Under the Power, I’ve Fallen For You, Miss Truth, My Roommate is a Detective, Ancient Detective.

Light-hearted Costume Dramas

As with previous years, 2020 had tons of light-hearted romcom costume dramas.

These are shorter (20–36 episodes) web dramas, and sometimes seem massively produced, with recycled plot-lines, tropes, costumes, and even whole scenes (those mandatory scenes with the fireworks or the lanterns) – but no surprise, given their success!Oh! My Sweet Liar!

Samples: See Top 10 plus Love is All, Fake Princess, General’s Lady.

Cut Down (Xianxia/Xuanhuan) Webnovel Adaptations

There was a general trend of cutting down/edited out/missing scenes in 2020 (costume) dramas. These cuts sometimes seemed to be made at the last moment, with various editing and incoherency issues in the final product, due to reasons not to be discussed here (*cough* censorship *cough* new regulations).

Chinese web novel adaptations were the most susceptible victims, especially the fantasy, time-travel, xianxia, xuanhuan, wuxia, or transmigration ones.

Samples: Love of Thousand Years, Dance of the Sky Empire, Dance of the Phoenix, Renascence.

Epic Romance Xianxias

Neither the Epic genre nor the Romance (female oriented) Xianxia genre had many exhibits this year, quantity-wise, but they were (all… two of them) tremendously successful, so I had to mention this!

Love and Redemption

Samples: See Top 10.

Honest Dramedies

Dramas that take a more realistic – or, at least, more honest – look at contemporary life, with characters that could very much be your next-door neighbours – if you live in China – and their relatable problems.

Besides life, they incorporate genres like family, business, drama, comedy, friendship, and youth, instead of just focusing on romance (although romance is also a part of them, usually).I Don't Want To Be Friends With YouBeing more character-driven than plot-driven, and usually slower, they’re understandably not everyone’s cup of tea. But give them a chance, and they may move you in unexpected ways!

Samples: See Top 10 plus Find Yourself, I Don’t Want To Be Friends With You, Lovely Us, Nothing But Thirty, I Will Find You a Better Home.

Gripping Suspense Mini-Dramas

The Bad KidsThere were several quality suspense/thriller/crime dramas coming out of China this year, most with a lower number of episodes (12-24) but high production values.

The most famous of them are those that belong to the "Light on Series" iQiyi originals compilation.

Samples: Reborn, Missing Persons, Light on Series: The Bad Kids, A Murderous Affair in Horizon Tower, Light on Series: The Long Night, Miss Gu Who is Silent.


Those dramas were not only light-hearted romantic comedies that make you smile. They were laugh-out-loud hilarious!

And so I dub them... comroms. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Su Yu

Samples: See Top 10 plus Oh! My Sweet Liar!, Su Yu.

This is Not What it Seems!

So you thought you were watching a revenge story all along? Surprise this whole thing was… Or, you thought this was set in a parallel universe, but in fact, it was all… Or, you thought this was real, but it wasn’t, really. Or, you thought this guy was a righteous police-officer seeking justice and the truth, but in reality, he was…

Plot twists in dramas can be a huge hit or a huge miss. Sometimes, they’re predictable, and other times nobody understands them even when supposedly explained.

There were a few 2020 dramas with really mind-boggling plot twists, but I’m not gonna give examples here to not spoil the fun! Feel free to discuss them in the comments below (don’t forget to mark those spoilers!) ;)


The HeiressThis is an old cliché that’s a favourite of many people (myself included): the girl who dresses up as a boy and, as if by magic, nobody recognizes her true gender, even if dim-wittedly apparent!

But, at least this year, there was a minimum effort in a couple of these dramas to make the disguise more believable…

Samples: See Top 10 plus Dr. Cutie, In a Class of Her Own, The Heiress, My Unicorn Girl.

Fake it till you make it

Arranged marriages (used more in historical settings) or contract/pretend relationships and marriages (in modern settings), also known as the "fake it till you make it" trope, is one of the most utilized romance cliché, and this year was no exception.Please Love Me

Samples: See Top 10 plus The Sleepless Princess, Midsummer Is Full of Love, Love in Time.

Workplace Romance

Nothing like the typical office headache-inducing background noise or the stress everyday rat-race gives you to keep romantic passion burning, right? What’d you mean no? These dramas beg to differ!

But if you really fall in love with your boss or the other way around, please don’t forget the (ethical) consequences of a possible power imbalance in such a relationship. ;)

Samples: See Top 10 plus Well Dominated Love, My Girl, Mr Honesty.

The Ordinary Glory

Perfect and Casual 1Perfect and Casual 2Perfect and Casual 3

Not much Fuss - Not much Angst

In place of the very dramatic and super angsty stories, it’s good to relax with some simple, uncomplicated romance from time to time, with not much trouble, misunderstandings, conflicts, and breakups going on between the main couple!

Samples: See Top 10 plus My Dear Lady, Be With You, Forever Love.

Puppy Love

Dramas set in a school setting in China must follow the regulations and not focus too much on the romance between the characters to not "negatively impact" youth and prevent them from working hard and focusing on their studies instead, or something to that effect.

Nevertheless, there’s almost always some cute puppy first love thrown in the mix (even at the degree of being the centric plot sometimes).

Samples: See Top 10 plus The Love Equations, First Romance, Meeting You, Professional Single.

Gender Role Reversal

It’s not like we’ll suddenly see a change in mostly patriarchal societies as they’re depicted in dramas, but at least there was a noticeable amount of proactive female leads, physically strong female leads opposite physically weak male leads, women bosses/CEOs, female leads saving the male lead for a change, and other non-traditional gender roles depicted in some 2020 dramas.

Samples: See Top 10 plus The Eight, The Moon Brightens For You, Begin Again.

Following Your Dreams

This is a theme that some people find optimistic and lovely, while some others find boring or overdone. Stories about chasing your dream and persevering despite the odds can sometimes get unrealistic, but they’re truly inspiring when done well.Dear Missy

Samples: See Top 10 plus Chef Hua, The Best of You in My Mind, Youth Unprescribed.

Sacrificing for the Common Good

A politician is a fellow who’s always willing to lay down your life for his country, they say. But, hey, at least those drama leads sacrifice their own life or their own happiness instead (if they’re urged by a politician or not is for another discussion).

Anyway, this form of social justice, sense of chivalry (or noble idiocy, if you will) is an admirable quality in a hero/heroine – as long as they don’t drag the melodrama too much!

Samples: Serenade of Peaceful Joy, Love in Between, The Song of Glory, The Legend of Xiao Chuo.

Found Family

People staying together, growing up together, or being very close without having blood ties, and their relationship being equal on importance or even more precious than their "real" family ties – this theme was present in some of the most beautiful dramas of 2020!Go Ahead

Samples: See Top 10.

Youth Bonding Through Sports

Hikaru no GoCommon interests are always an ice breaker, but it’s really marvellous how close young people can get with those who share their passion in life, especially for competitive sports/mind sports/e-sports.

Samples: See Top 10 plus Love of Summer Night, Cross Fire.


The Romance of Tiger and Rose
Em, what were you saying?

LGBTQ+ Subtext Everywhere!

After the huge success of 2019’s The Untamed, numerous danmei novels’ rights were bought to be adapted into dramas.

But even beyond the (censored) adaptations of LGBTQ+ original works, 2020 dramas made it look like drama makers were determined to include at least some LGBTQ+ subtext and/or queer-baiting into everything!The Silent Criminal

Samples: See Top 10 plus Winter Begonia, The Silent Criminal, Dear Missy.

Steamy Kisses

If you’re tired of the "dead fish" kisses or the usual minor pecks in the mouth, don’t worry. 2020 Chinese dramas got you covered!

Samples: See Top 10 plus Girlfriend, My Love, Enlighten Me, Love Designer, Dating in the Kitchen, To Dear Myself.

Love Designer

Eternal Love of Dream

Love is Sweet

Back from Limbo

One good thing that happened during the chaotic 2020 is that dramas gathering dust on some forgotten shelf for years were released at long last!

Dusty Shelf

Samples: God of Lost Fantasy, The Wolf.

The Romance of a Legendary Love

...Of the Youthful Princess and the Sweet Prince Dancing under the Moon at the Sound of a Girl’s Song who’s like a Blooming Flower.

If you don’t understand what I’m talking about, just take a look at the official English titles of various Chinese dramas, and count how many have the word "Love", "Romance", or "Legend" in them! If they don’t, I have 11 more words for you to pick, and voila, you’ll probably get 80% of all Chinese drama titles! xD

A trend that unfortunately carried on from previous years, and too bad, ‘cause some of those original Chinese titles were so beautiful and poetic, especially of the historical dramas!

Samples: See Top 10 plus Legend of Awakening, Love a Lifetime, Eternal Love Rain.

 Dramas Top 10 Countdown 

And without further ado...


 Maiden Holmes 

Maiden Holmes

Trends: Historical Mysteries, Light-hearted Costume Dramas, Gender-bender, Gender Role Reversal.

MDL Rating: 8.3/10 from 2,050 users

Douban Rating: 6.7/10 from 10,439 users


 Eternal Love of Dream 

Eternal Love of Dream

Trends: Epic Romance Xianxias, Steamy Kisses, Gender Role Reversal, The Romance of a Legendary Love, LGBTQ+ Subtext Everywhere.

MDL Rating: 8.6/10 from 4,350 users

Douban Rating: 6.8/10 from 282,428 users


 Intense Love 

Intense Love

Trends: Fake it till you Make it, Steamy Kisses, Not much Fuss - Not much Angst, The Romance of a Legendary Love, Gender Role Reversal.

MDL Rating: 8.3/10 from 4,321 users

Douban Rating: 5.4/10 from 38,883 users


 Hikaru no Go 

Hikaru no Go

Trends: Following Your Dreams, Youth Bonding Through Sports, Honest Dramedies, Found Family, LGBTQ+ Subtext Everywhere.

MDL Rating: 8.6/10 from 629 users

Douban Rating: 8.7/10 from 167,421 users


 Skate Into Love 

Skate Into Love

Trends: Youth Bonding Through Sports, Following Your Dreams, Puppy Love, The Romance of a Legendary Love.

MDL Rating: 8.5/10 from 5,614 users

Douban Rating: 7.1/10 from 118,625 users


 Perfect and Casual 

Perfect and Casual

Trends: Not much Fuss - Not much Angst, Fake it till you Make it, Steamy Kisses.

MDL Rating: 8.3/10 from 4,196 users

Douban Rating: 6.6/10 from 12,137 users


 Love is Sweet 

Love is Sweet

Trends: Workplace Romance, Steamy Kisses, The Romance of a Legendary Love.

MDL Rating: 8.5/10 from 4,905 users

Douban Rating: 7.3/10 from 61,665 users


 Go Ahead 

Go Ahead

Trends: Honest Dramedies, Found Family.

MDL Rating: 9.0/10 from 5,356 users

Douban Rating: 7.0/10 from 233,376 users


 The Romance of Tiger and Rose 

The Romance of Tiger and Rose

Trends: COMrom, Gender Role Reversal, Light-hearted Costume Dramas, The Romance of a Legendary Love.

MDL Rating: 8.6/10 from 6,817 users

Douban Rating: 7.5/10 from 249,240 users


 Love and Redemption 

Love and Redemption

Trends: Epic Romance Xianxias, Gender Role Reversal, Steamy Kisses, The Romance of a Legendary Love.

MDL Rating: 8.7/10 from 3,229 users

Douban Rating: 7.6/10 from 237,625 users


OSTs Sampler

A 2020 rewind wouldn't be complete without some OSTs. Here are some of my favourites – click to enjoy (links lead to YouTube)!

Paper Boat
Xue Zhiqian & Yu Kewei

Legend of Awakening OST
Duan Aojuan

Miss Gu Who is Silent OST
I'm Not In A Good Mood
Zheng Yunlong

My Strange Friend OST
Like A Shallow
Laure Shang

Legend of Xiao Chuo OST
Wang Xi & Xianzi

Love in Between OST
Our Adventure
Cao Yin

Hikaru no Go OST

Honorary Mentions

Finally, here are some dramas that couldn't fit anywhere else. Instead of trends/genres/tags, I'm gonna present them in order of their release date.

Fairyland LoversFairyland LoversHandsome SiblingsHandsome SiblingsMr. Fox and Miss RoseMr. Fox and Miss RoseLight on Series: Kidnapping GameKidnapping Game
Reunion: The Sound of the Providence
HeroesHeroesQing Qing Zi JinQing Qing Zi JinQin Dynasty EpicQin Dynasty Epic

So did you expect these Top 10 results?

What are your own favourite dramas of 2020?

Did you notice any of the trends I'm mentioning in the dramas you watched?

And what are other trends you think were worth mentioning?

Thank you very much for reading my very first article!

A big THANK YOU, first & foremost, to Yuanwei for encouraging me & tolerating my continuous nervous breakdown while writing this, to Peppersqueak for advice on how to get down and write an article, to all the editors, and last but not least, to all the people who voted on my list!!

[Sources: Gifs/Pics - 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 | Info - Douban ]

Editor: Cookie (2nd editor)

chinese drama go ahead tiger and rose love and redemption 2020 rewind top 10 dramas 2020 dramas drama trends

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