Drama adaptations from popular Chinese novels have become commonplace, allowing for numerous works to reach a wider audience. Here are some dramas based on novels that have won the hearts of viewers and caused an online buzz over the exceptional writing, production, and acting!

“Swordsman”

The story of “Swordsman” comes from Jin Yong’s wuxia (Chinese fantasy genre featuring martial arts heroes) novel “The Smiling, Proud Wanderer.” It follows Linghu Chong (Wallace Huo), a carefree disciple of the Mount Hua Sect, who gets sent on an errand and ends up meeting various people from the martial world — some of whom have great ambitions and evil intentions. While the drama does follow general points from the novel’s plot, it mainly takes on creative liberties, especially with its focus on a romantic plotline.

Overall, the drama serves some fun as the story progresses and unveils the antagonists who seek power through the Bixie Swordplay manual. It is also entertaining to see how Linghu Chong’s indecisiveness over his love interests plays out. Viewers looking for a more romance-centered wuxia drama will find this an enjoyable watch, though they should keep in mind that the quality of the CGI does not meet the standards seen in more recent C-dramas.

“My Mr. Mermaid”

“My Mr. Mermaid” is based on a novel of the same title by Jiu Xiao Qi. Yun Duo (Tan Song Yun), a new hire at a sports news outlet, gets assigned to report on a swimming competition where Tang Yi Bai (Dylan Xiong), a former champion, hopes to re-enter following a doping scandal. This drama revolves around swimming, but a cute romance also develops between the main leads.

What makes this show appealing is how the leads encourage each other: Yi Bai helps Yun Duo try to secure a permanent position at her job with exclusive interviews, and reciprocally, Yun Duo helps him overcome the wall that prevents him from reaching his full potential as a swimmer. The slow but cute romance is combined with sweet friendships and side characters that add to the overall winsome charm of the show.

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Nirvana in Fire

Hai Yan, the original novel’s author, also took on the job as a screenwriter for this drama. “Nirvana in Fire” follows Lin Shu (Hu Ge), the son of General Lin, who accompanies his father to the battlefield in the name of the Liang Dynasty. He ends up as the sole survivor of his clan after his family is framed and decides to adopt new identities to exact revenge. This drama created a massive buzz online for its beautiful cinematography, skillful directing and action sequences, and solid acting and plot. The series does an exemplary job of building on the political tension and power struggles while also delivering an emotional payoff for its characters.

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“Ode to Joy”

“Ode to Joy” has the same title as the novel by A Nai, which tells the story of five women from different walks of life who live on the same floor of an apartment complex and befriend one another. The realistic portrayal of women and their relatable struggles in love and work makes this drama shine. It speaks to the current generation of adult women who are faced with uncertain futures and does not sugarcoat the thoughts and worries that cross their minds. Furthermore, it captivates viewers with the strong bond these women hold, which the actresses help bring to life. Most importantly, it illustrates a lovely group of fleshed-out characters with diverse personalities who each address different hardships and stories.

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Story of Yanxi Palace

“Story of Yanxi Palace” bases itself on a novel by Zhou Mo. The focus of this series builds on Wei Ying Luo’s (Wu Jin Yan) ascension from a palace maid to a part of the emperor’s royal harem. While the basis of this show sounds like any other palace drama, the female lead has a reason for entering the palace outside of winning the emperor’s favor: she wishes to find the truth behind her sister’s death. This situation adds a surprising twist to the story, as Ying Luo’s life changes drastically due to her attempt at uncovering the truth.

This show also has all the elements of a good harem drama with inner palace politics and intelligent and calculative women. The hype and craze surrounding “Story of Yanxi Palace” stems from its strongly-written characters, well-developed storyline, and beautiful cinematography. It paces itself well and keeps viewers hooked on Ying Luo’s journey and romance.

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When We Were Young

The novel “When We Were Young” was written by Yan Sheng and later adapted into a web series. It centers around high school students who each have their own struggles as they encounter the hardships of having to grow up. It also addresses the questions they have to answer about who they are and want they want for the future.

This series is incredibly heartwarming and wholesome, and it achieves that by choosing not to focus mainly a romance, but rather on friendships, familial love, and responsibility. “When We Were Young” has charming characters that amplify the story and hits viewers with nostalgia through its relatable scenarios. Those looking for another youth drama to check out should give this one a try!

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Hey Soompiers! Which are your favorite novel-to-drama adaptations? List them down below in the comments!

isms is a big fan of Asian dramas and loves watching variety shows.

Currently watching: “The Crowned Clown”
Looking forward to: “The Pillow Book” and “Unrequited Love”

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