Sweeping Fantasy To Modern Love: The Best C-Dramas Of 2021

There’s no denying that 2021 was a great year for Chinese dramas. From sweeping fantasy epics to tales of modern love, there was no shortage of great dramas to watch. But for those who may be new to the Chinese drama scene, or for those who just want a refresher on which dramas were the best, here’s a list of the best Chinese dramas of 2021.

1. “My Little Happiness”

Starring Xing Fei as Zhuo Rong, a determined young woman with dreams of becoming a lawyer, and Tang Xiao Tian as Wen Shao Qing, a surgeon who finds himself in need of legal aide, “My Little Happiness” is a fun little rom-com that proves you can’t escape the strings of fate, no matter how hard you try. Defying her mother’s wishes to study abroad, Zhuo Rong not only tricks her mother into believing she’s studying abroad, but goes on to take an internship at a local law firm. While that little bit of trickery is humorous enough in its own right, it’s the highly tangled mess she finds herself in when she takes on her first case that really drives this drama. Not only is her first client a talented surgeon, he’s also her childhood friend, landlord, and her next-door neighbor. With so much going on in this leading lady’s life, there’s never a dull moment, which is exactly why this drama was one of this past year’s best.

Start watching “My Little Happiness” here:

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2. “Falling Into Your Smile”

Set in the competitive world of eSports, “Falling Into Your Smile” highlights all the possibilities that await those who are willing to think and act outside of the proverbial box. Xu Kai’s Lu Si Cheng may be a hard-nosed professional gamer, but when he meets Cheng Xiao’s plucky Tong Yao, everything changes. Together they’re posed to turn the male-dominated world of eSports upside down, which is what makes this drama so fun. There’s nothing more satisfying than watching the cold, pro-gamer turn into a loving, supportive fan-boy who wants nothing more than to watch his lovely lady dominate the world of pro gaming.

Start watching “Falling Into Your Smile” here:

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3. “You Are My Hero”

When Sandra Ma’s hard-working doctor, Mi Ka, meets Bai Jing Ting’s special ops agent, Xing Ke Lei, in the romantic medical military drama “You Are My Hero,” sparks instantly begin to fly. Working together at the epicenter of a deadly earthquake, the two unlikely partners find they share more than just a common goal to save lives. Full of as much action as romance, this drama pleases on so many levels that it was impossible to exclude it from this list.

Start watching “You Are My Hero” here:

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4. “Please Feel At Ease Mr. Ling”

After running quite literally into Liu Te’s Ling Yue in the delightful rom-com “Please Feel At Ease Mr. Ling,” Zhao Lu Si’s Gu An Xin has no choice but to take care of the recovering amnesiac. Nursing the unknowing heir of an unspeakable fortune back to health, the two share a number of adventures that inadvertently draw them together. While every drama watcher knows amnesia is a commonly used trope, the way it’s executed in “Mr. Ling” makes it a whole lot of fun as, instead of being used to drive people apart, it’s actually what brings them together. Pair that with a hilarious number of misadventures and an ever-growing amount of romantic tension between the leads, and you’ve got a rom-com that’s definitely worth watching!

Start watching “Please Feel At Ease Mr. Ling” here:

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5. “The Sword and the Brocade”

When fate demands Tan Song Yun’s Shi Yi Niang to save her family from utter ruin, she soon finds herself married to Wallace Chung’s Xu Ling Yi in the sweeping historical drama “The Sword and the Brocade.” With Ling Yi being a great military general and a highborn duke, and Yi Niang being a skilled embroiderer with nothing more than her talent to offer, the two have nothing in common, save an ever-growing number of challenges mounting on all sides. With no choice but to work together, this reluctant couple find themselves growing closer as they fight to save their family from impending doom. The journey this couple makes, from total strangers to true lovers, is such an emotional and epic one that you can’t help but love every single moment of their story.

Start watching “The Sword and the Brocade” here:

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6. “Miss Crow with Mr. Lizard”

In “Miss Crow with Mr. Lizard,” after a near-fatal accident forces Allen Ren’s Gu Chuan to live a mere shadow of his former life, he begins to believe that his life has lost all meaning. Only after he meets Fei Xing’s Jiang Xiao Yu does Gu Chuan begin to imagine that he can once again have a life actually worth living. Knowing how desperately alone and depressed Gu Chuan was, before meeting Xiao Yu, makes watching that spark of life return truly spectacular.

Start watching “Miss Crow with Mr. Lizard” here:

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7. “The Rebel Princess”

In the sweeping historical epic “The Rebel Princess,” 15-year-old Wang Zuan, played by Zhang Zi Yi, is forced to marry the low-born but powerful general Xiao Qi, played by Zhou Yi Wei. She thinks that her life is effectively over but in reality, her life has only just begun. Though the journey this couple makes takes a number of years, it’s time well-spent as the experiences they share and the growing conflict surrounding them not only brings them closer as a couple, but pushes them towards an unexpected destiny. Eventually finding themselves in a position of unexpected power, the life they’ve shared up to this point is exactly what gives them the strength to fight what could very well be the hardest battle of their lives. As one of the most beautiful and epic historical dramas of the year, “The Rebel Princess” absolutely had to be added to this list.

Start watching “The Rebel Princess” here:

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8. “The Long Ballad”

The sole survivor of a bloody coup, Dilraba Dilmurat’s Li Chang Ge swears to avenge her family’s death in the historical romance “The Long Ballad.” After years of planning, Chang Ge is poised to exact her revenge, but is thwarted at the last minute by the unexpected attack of the Eastern Turkic Khaganate. Now held captive as a prisoner of war, Chang Ge eventually finds herself allying with the victorious general Ashi Na Sun, played by Leo Wu. Together they are a formidable force, but how can Chang Ge remain by Na Sun’s side when her family has yet to be avenged? With no shortage of historical romances out there, it’s this question that sets this drama apart from the rest. Watching powerful mortal enemies slowly fall in love and the tension that rises along the way is what makes this drama truly spectacular.

Start watching “The Long Ballad” here:

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9. “Sunshine of My Life”

Zhang Han’s Tang Ming Xuan may be a goal-driven workaholic in “Sunshine of My Life,” but when he meets Xu Lu’s talented Tang Fei at a design fair, everything changes. Or does it? Committed to their own dreams, Ming Xuan and Tang Fei are willing to set aside their feelings in order to make their long-held dreams come true. But only after they are reunited by fate are they willing to give their love a chance to blossom. The fact that this drama allows its main couple the chance to pursue their life-long dreams, rather than give it all up for love, is what makes this drama truly special. That’s not to say that love doesn’t make an appearance, the opposite is true, and one could argue that forcing love to wait, until the time is right, only serves to make it that much more special once it’s finally given a chance to bloom.

Start watching “Sunshine of My Life” here:

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10. “Go Go Squid 2: Dt, Appledog’s Time”

Reprising their roles as Dt and Appledog in this sequel to the 2019 hit drama “Go Go Squid!Hu Yi Tian and Li Yi Tong return in “Go Go Squid 2: Dt, Appledog’s Time.” Stars in the world of robot combat, Dt and Appledog may have mutual respect for each other professionally, but when it comes to competition, they’re both out to win. Of course things take an interesting turn when their professional respect slowly develops into something much more personal. While just having the chance to return to the world of “Go Go Squid!” is enough to watch this drama, there’s no denying that it’s an awful lot of fun watching these two fall in love.

Start watching “Go Go Squid 2: Dt, Appledog’s Time” here:

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11. “Love Unexpected”

Traumatized by horrific events of the past, Fan Shi Qi’s Xu Nuo has become a ruthless corporate shark with zero emotions. Physically incapable of feeling any emotion whatsoever, Xu Nuo has garnered his fair share of enemies in the modern romantic tale “Love Unexpected.” Realizing his need for a bodyguard, Xu Nuo hires the talented Ke Si Yi, played by Qi Yan Di. Despite their rocky beginnings, Si Yi’s dedication to her job eventually wins Xu Nuo over, which eventually causes him to feel things he never thought he’d ever feel again. With a leading lady as adorable as Si Yi, you know going into this that it’s going to be impossible for Xu Nuo to resist her charms. Even so, you can’t help but melt right along with his frozen heart as her sweetness wins him over. Even if the concepts of this drama aren’t new, the sweetness is so overwhelming, you will find yourself unable to do anything but love it.

Start watching “Love Unexpected” here:

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12. “She is the One”

In a classic tale of sibling swaps and mistaken identities, “She is the One” stars Li Nuo as her sister’s reluctant stand-in, Yuan Yue Yue, and Pei Zi Tian as her begrudging intended, Wen Jin Chen. As one can imagine, starting things off as bride and groom in a wedding that never actually happens, fate leads these two on an incredibly twisted path, which only serves to make their final destination that much sweeter upon arrival. Everything about this drama is twisted in one way or another, but that’s exactly why it’s so great. It’s the bizarre twists and turns, and the inevitable romance that blossoms, that keep you coming back for more.

Start watching “She is the One” here:

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13. “Douluo Continent”

A fantasy story on an epic scale, “Douluo Continent” stars Xiao Zhan as Tang San and Wu Xuan Yi as his best friend, Gu Xiao Wu. Studying to become great soul masters, the two friends grow up together, sharing an endless number of grand adventures and making a number of friends along the way. Of course, you know that anyone setting out on a quest to become the greatest soul masters of all time is going to face some challenges along the way, but every obstacles they face, every battle they fight, and even the ever-growing bonds between them, all serve to drive this story in the most fantastic ways possible, making this an epic adventure you won’t want to miss!

Start watching “Douluo Continent” here:

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14. “Miss the Dragon”

When humble maidservant Liu Ying, played by Zhu Xu Dan, saves a snake from harm, her life is changed forever. Revealing himself to be a thousand-year-old dragon king by the name of Yu Chi Long Yan (Dylan Wang), the old dragon king wishes to repay her kindness in whatever way he can, but the request Liu Ying makes isn’t what he expects. Asking the Dragon King to protect her friend for multiple lifetimes keeps our hero and heroine apart for literal ages. But the King is true to his word, and eventually he and the handmaiden are finally reunited four lifetimes later. In a story that literally spans multiple lifetimes, it’s hard not to love a man who is willing to love the same woman, in different forms, for all eternity. Even when it seems like our heroine has forgotten who holds her heart, our intrepid Dragon King never gives up hope.

Start watching “Miss the Dragon” here:

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15. “Word of Honor”

If adventure is what you crave, look no further than “Word of Honor.” Starring Zhang Zhe Han and Gong Jun, this action-packed drama tells the story of Zhang Zhe Han’s Zhou Zi Shu, a talented young leader of the imperial guard who sets off to seek his own fortune rather than live tied to a life he does not want. Along the way he meets Gong Jun’s Wen Ke Xing, a mysterious martial artist on a quest to avenge the death of his parents. Soon fast friends, the two eventually find themselves on a treasure hunting adventure so epic, it could alter the course of history forever. It’s so rare to see a drama centered around something other than romance. And what’s not to love about two best friends whose epically grand adventures inadvertently change the world?

Start watching “Word of Honor” here:

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With so many fantastic dramas out there, it’s impossible to list them all. Which 2021 Chinese dramas top your list of favorites? Let us know in the comments!

Leah is a freelance writer who has spent the past decade lost in the Wonderland that is Asian pop culture and entertainment.

Currently watching:Ghost Doctor,” “Cupid’s Kitchen,” and “Young Lady and Gentleman
All-time favorite dramas:Master’s Sun” and “Guardian: The Lonely and Great God
Looking forward to: Park Seo Joon’s upcoming drama, the release of ONE OK ROCK’s next full-length album, and the eventual premiere of the star-studded sci-fi action film, “Alien”

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