10 Modern Chinese Family Dramas You Must Watch

Updated on July 31, 2016

If you spent your formative years during that time when the Internet is still not commonly used, you will be forgiven for thinking that China’s TV shows are all period pieces with no subtitles. Much has changed since those years, as Chinese TV is now home to modern drama series that are easily as engrossing as what the rest of the world has to offer. Here some of the best examples.

1. Fu Qi Na Xie Shi (Affairs of a Married Couple)

Affairs of a Married Couple focuses on a childless couple, Lin Jun and Tang Peng, their grief over not being able to procreate, and their rock-solid union.

Why You Must Watch It

  • Unlike most drama series that revel in seeing relationships fall apart, the married couple in Fu Qi Na Xie Shi have a very loving and understanding relationship, with the couple managing to stay strong (and together) despite the challenges they encounter.
  • Huang Lei turns in a very charming performance as the husband, showing his dramatic and comedic chops and serving as the perfect foil to Chen Su, who plays the wife.
  • The story is a good lighthearted look at how couples who have problems procreating handle the problem, as the series tells an interesting story without being mired in too much melodrama.

2. The Good Wife

The Good Wife is about Shen Yi Zen, who tried to be a dutiful wife and obedient daughter-in-law for seven years, despite being treated poorly by a workaholic husband and her perfectionist parents in law for not being able to bear a child. Things start to take a turn for the worse when she meets a man who knows how to treat her right.

Why You Must Watch It

  • Both leads, Tian Xin (Shen Yi Zen) and Christopher Lee (Li Shao Wen), show amazing restraint in their acting, able to portray emotions through nuanced acting instead of going overboard with their performance.
  • The characterization is not painted exclusively in black and white. All the characters have flaws and redeeming qualities at the same time, so you won’t feel that the writers are forcing you to root or jeer for anyone.
  • The show is also amusing because of the blatant product placements, particularly for Vaseline Intensive Care lotion. In some cases, it is worth watching the series just to laugh at the obvious advertisements for its sponsors.

3. Red Cherries

Red Cherries is a family drama that serves as a direct sequel to the TV soap Cherries. It follows Xing Meng (played by actress Liu Tao) who’s currently studying abroad and planning to run her father’s business when she returns home. While abroad, she meets Shi Yi Fei and develops a romance, only to find things getting out of hand back home as her father is charged with bribery and all of their assets are frozen.

Why You Must Watch It

  • Liu Tao is an excellent (and gorgeous) actress - this may be the last time you’ll see her in a drama series because she has already retired after getting married.
  • The series is an exercise in juxtaposition, as the bright, sunny cinematography and romantic story is juxtaposed with family- and business/politics-oriented drama.

4. When Puberty Runs Into Menopause

When Puberty Runs Into Menopause follows rich heir Deng Jiaqi, who is arranged by his wealthy parents to be married to a girl he doesn’t love. In an effort to get back and prove that he can’t be forced into a life he doesn’t want, he purposely tries to sabotage their married life but ended up falling in love for real.

Why You Must Watch It

  • A lighthearted take on the very serious issue of forced and arranged marriages
  • Lead actor Du Chun (who plays Deng Jiaqi) performs admirably well and against type, finally breaking away from the role of the rugged spy hero that made him famous in In Enemy Camp for 18 Years.

5. Trivial Matters of an Only Child

Trivial Matters of an Only Child, as its title implies, focuses on an only child who has to take care of six elderly people – from his parents to his grandparents – while juggling his own career and relationships on the side.

Why You Must Watch It

  • Trivial Matters of an Only Child is the perfect series if you don’t want too much sappiness, as the director himself that the series tackles family conflicts, but does so not for drama but to show “kindness and humanity.”

6. Dad, I Am Pregnant With Your Kid

Dad, I Am Pregnant With Your Kid delves into December-June relationships as an advertising professional meets and falls in love with a woman who is 20 years his junior.

Why You Must Watch It

  • The English title itself: most people would imagine gross storylines based on the title alone. It’s nothing of the sort. In case you’re curious if the series tackles incest: it doesn’t.
  • The story itself, while containing the conventional romance angles, also tackles the difficulties that an age gap brings to a relationship, and it does so without going overboard on the sap and melodrama.

7. The Three-Kingdom Era of Sisters-in-Law

The Three-Kingdom Era of Sisters-in-Law is a modern family drama that focuses on the families of three brothers: the eldest who has made a name for himself in the business world, a second eldest who’s following in his older brother’s footsteps, and the youngest who has not yet succeeded in his career.

Why You Must Watch It

  • There’s a lot of conflict in the series but it still manages to drive home a very positive point: the most important thing in life is not money or property, but family.
  • The series has women as its driving forces, so if you want a drama series where the females are not cannon fodder or pushovers, watch this.

8. Bi You Cai

Bi You Cai’s story starts in 1948, with a baby girl who was born at the end of the courtyard, and grew up to become a wealthy and influential individual.

Why You Must Watch It

  • Bi You Cai stands out on this list because it’s a period drama.
  • The costumes are well done and a joy to look at.
  • Contains strong female characters, in a genre where they are usually portrayed as weak and emotional.

9. When Naïve Meets Reality

When Naïve Meets Reality delves into the lives of men and women who remarry after the loss of a partner.

Why You Must Watch It

  • A very timely series, as there are a lot of individuals these days who jump into another marriage after a failed one.
  • The series also explores many hot topics in modern Chinese life, particularly concerning relationships.

10. Half a Fairy Tale

Half a Fairy Tale focuses on a pair of female twins who were separated at a young age, but brought back together in order to protect the family business from a scheming relative, Jing Qing Yu.

Why You Must Watch It

  • Janine Chang turns in a sterling performance as the twins Zhao Ting You and Zhao Ting Xuan
  • The process of how the twins manage to mature and realize their own strengths is worth keeping an eye on, as well as the journey they take in order to realize the true meaning of family.
  • The two sisters will get help from unlikely allies – Ting Yuan’s fiancé Du Yu Feng and Jing Wei, who is the son of the antagonist.


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