Blast From The Past: 10 Classic TW-Dramas, HK Dramas, C-Dramas That Are Just As Great Today
Classics are classics for a reason. Or rather, several reasons. One reason could be that the source material itself is epic and beloved, thus generating a thousand remakes and reboots. Or the show was an instant hit when it first aired, and people still remember the hype. If that’s not it, it’s because it brings back memories of when we first watched the show and reminds us of a simpler, more innocent time. Whatever the reason, there are many classic dramas from our childhood or teen years that we reminisce about every once in a while.
Here are some great Mandarin-language classics for you to marathon again or give a try if you’ve never watched them before.
Note: Classic also generally means “old” (the shows on this list are all pre-2005), so just be warned that you’re in for some questionable hairstyles and fashion choices. But please don’t let them stop you!
1. My Fair Princess (1997)
I cannot even begin to express my fondness for this series. Every year, during Chinese/Lunar New Year, some channels will air this series — from the first season all the way to the reboot — and my family and I will just huddle around and catch as many episodes as we can. It’s a show that’s got it all — silliness, romance, revenge, angst, action, and even an OST that’s still stuck in our heads so many years later.
If you’ve never watched it before, you should drop everything right now and give it a shot. It’s about a commoner who is mistaken for a princess and the shenanigans she always gets herself into. The first two seasons, played by the same cast, are especially great.
2. The Duke of the Mount Deer (1998)
Chinese title: 鹿鼎记
Genre: Wuxia; Comedy
The protagonist of the story is a boy named Wei Xiao Bao who grew up in a brothel. After a coincidental encounter with the emperor, he makes his way into the Forbidden City and becomes a eunuch. Using his street smarts, he gains the trust of the emperor and slowly climbs his way up the social ladder, deftly managing various political agendas.
This is a drama that has often been remade (a new version will air in 2020), but one that stands out is the one from 1998, which was an instant hit when it first aired. This Hong Kong production remains a classic for many people due to Jordan Chan‘s memorable transformation into Wei Xiao Bao and for the script that took creative licenses but still remained loyal to the original work.
You can also give the 2014 version “The Deer and the Cauldron” a try!
Start watching “The Deer and the Cauldron”:
3. The Legendary Siblings (1999)
Due to my infatuation with Alec Su (thanks to “My Fair Princess”), I found myself keeping an eye out for his works, and thus came across this show (which subsequently intensified my infatuation for Jimmy Lin). “The Legendary Siblings” is a story about two brothers who get separated at birth and are pitted against each other by cruel forces seeking revenge. The story itself is entertaining enough, but the performances by the cast make it even more wonderfully memorable.
The most recent remake, which aired last year in 2018, is titled “The Handsome Siblings,” and stars Hu Yi Tian.
4. Meteor Garden (2001)
This classic needs no explanation. It is the show that birthed the Taiwanese boy group F4, pumped the Taiwanese “idol drama” industry into overdrive, and spawned a million more remakes from all over Asia. It was essentially such a phenomenon that you would see their faces everywhere you turned and hear “Can’t Help Falling in You” by Harlem Yu or “Meteor Rain” by F4 wherever you went. Can’t get more classic than that!
The Korean remake, “Boys Over Flowers,” was similarly a huge hit. No surprises there!
Start watching “Boys Over Flowers”:
5. The Condor Trilogy
Chinese title: 射雕英雄传/神雕侠侣/倚天屠龙记
Genre: Wuxia; Romance
The Condor Trilogy, a series of books written by Jin Yong, remains widely loved by the public and is regularly remade into movies and dramas every few years across China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. The first book “Legend of Condor Heroes” follows main protagonist Yang Guo and his romantic relationship with Huang Rong and rivalry with Yang Kang, as well as the warring Han and Mongol empires.
The second story “The Return of the Condor Heroes” revolves around Yang Kang’s son Guo Jing and his martial arts master Xiao Long Nu. While training together, they develop romantic feelings, but a relationship between master and apprentice is considered taboo among their community.
“The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber” is the last installment of the trilogy and one that focuses on the search for the titular weapons that are rumored to allow the wielder the power and authority to rule over the entire land.
Start watching “Legend of Condor Heroes”:
Also watch “The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber”:
6. My MVP Valentine (2002)
“My MVP Valentine” enjoyed huge success in Asia during its time and played a huge part in bringing greater fame to its cast, including lead actor Johnny Yen, who used to be a professional basketball player. A story about basketball, passion, and defying all odds, the drama was one that many of us could identify with during our teenage years.
Fun fact: Other than the many classic songs by boy group 5566, the drama also featured hit songs from the K-pop realm, including ones by BoA and Shinhwa.
Start watching “My MVP Valentine”:
7. Heaven’s Wedding Gown (2004)
Farm owner’s daughter Ai Qing (Cyndi Wang) and fashion designer Zi Hao (Leon Jay Williams) coincidentally meet in Paris but leave unpleasant first impressions on each other. After returning to Taiwan, Ai Qing is distraught to find that her family’s farm has been sold to none other than the arrogant Zi Hao. While this synopsis may sound rather typical, the story line is executed in an earnest way that touches the heart and has us longing for a similar romance in our lives.
This is also the debut drama for Ming Dao, and it gives us a good glimpse of his initial talent before his career skyrocketed.
Start watching “Heaven’s Wedding Gown“:
8. Devil Beside You (2005)
“Devil Beside You” is another one of my all-time favorites and one that kickstarted a verrry long phase of indulging in Taiwanese dramas. With its fun premise, sizzling chemistry between the trio of Mike He, Rainie Yang, and Kingone Wang, and well, the existence of Mike He himself, this drama had it all! In fact, the trio was so well-received, production companies got the band back together for another drama called “Why Why Love” a few years later.
“Devil Beside You” tells the following story. When Qi Yue (Rainie Yang) passes a letter confessing her feelings for Yuan Yi (Kingone), the letter is intercepted by the school’s resident bad boy, Ah Meng (Mike He). He uses the letter to threaten her into running errands for him, and things are further complicated when they find out that their parents are dating and soon to be wed.
9. It Started With A Kiss (2005)
Another beloved drama from the same year, “It Started With A Kiss” is about a family whose house is destroyed in an earthquake and is thus invited to move into the father’s friend’s abode. There, the daughter Xiang Qin (Ariel Lin) discovers that the son of the household is none other than her genius classmate, Zhi Shu (Joe Cheng).
While arguments can be made that Xiang Qin as a character is a tad too bumbling and ditzy at times, there’s still something deliciously fun about watching the stoic and icy Zhi Shu slowly melt in Xiang Qin’s sunny presence.
The popularity of this series (and the manga it’s based on) allowed other countries to remake their own versions, including Korea’s own “Playful Kiss.”
Start watching “Playful Kiss”:
10. The Prince Who Turns Into A Frog (2005)
2005 was undoubtedly the year for Taiwanese idol dramas, and this entry completes the trifecta! This drama blew up in the ratings department and held the title for the highest ratings for many years until “Fated to Love You” (another Joe Chen-fronted drama) broke it in 2008. Fans couldn’t get enough of Joe Chen and Ming Dao’s electric chemistry, and this role propelled them to household-name status.
This is a story about a ruthless CEO called Jun Hao (Ming Dao) who gets amnesia (and a radical personality change) after getting in an accident. Ye Tian Yu (Joe Chen), the girl who accidentally runs him over, doesn’t know what to do with him and brings him back to her hometown. Just as love starts to bloom, Jun Hao’s family comes looking for him.
Start watching “Waking Love Up”:
How many of these shows have you watched? Share your wonderful memories with everyone below! And feel free to advocate for your favorite version from all the remakes!
After writing this article, Belinda_C has the strongest urge to rewatch a lot of the shows on this list! Discuss dramas and SEVENTEENxShinhwa with her on Twitter!
All-time favorite: “My Fair Princess,” “Devil Beside You,” “Fated to Love You“