The Best Chinese TV Shows

I like watching Chinese dramas. Even Chinese people think that’s weird and would mostly rather watch foreign TV. I can understand that. For the most part, the acting in Chinese dramas is pretty bad, the actors and actresses all look the same (because they use the same plastic surgeon) and the story lines are pretty limited due to censorship. However, I think that if you read between the lines, you can gain a good understanding of societal issues and the party line by hearing what’s being said just as much as from what isn’t said. Of course, these shows are also great for learning new Chinese vocabulary and practicing your listening comprehension. Below is a list of my favorite shows:

  1. 猫爸虎妈 “Cat Dad, Tiger Mom” : This show reflects the difficulty of navigating the pressure of the Chinese school system. There is a major conflict between the mother and father in how they want to address the problem of education in a system where finishing in second place means losing. Many Chinese people approved of how realistic this show is.
  2. 中国式离婚 “Chinese Style Divorce” : This show is a bit old, but still is one of my favorites. It portrays the pressures of getting married and starting a family that many Chinese face, then feeling trapped in an unhappy relationship due to the stigma of divorce.
  3. 蜗居 “Small Dwelling” : This series hits on the issues of the Chinese housing market – expensive, small homes compared to the relatively low incomes that the average Chinese person earns. Families will go to extremes to pull together the funding to buy a home.
  4. 三十而已 “Only 30” : This is a new series that tells the stories of three 30 year old women (you know, the age at which women shrivel up and become irrelevant) who are chasing their dreams of career, family, love etc. The story stands in stark contrast to the idea that 30 year old women are already too old to do or be anything of value. This show challenges that societal standard.

These are just a few Chinese shows that I’ve watched and enjoyed. I prefer the shows that focus on modern family related issues as opposed to the Tang Dynasty soaps (too hard to understand) or the all too predictable military dramas (what?! Japan sucks?? I’m so surprised!). Unfortunately most of these shows aren’t available with English subtitles, but you can watch them on and take your time watching, pause where you need to in order to look something up. It’s a great way to learn some conversational Chinese!

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