Do you know you can learn and improve the Mandarin language by watching Chinese TV Series?
Yes, that’s correct. So here are 21 great TV shows to help you with the Chinese language — there’s something for everyone!
If you have reasons for learning Mandarin, you also have a wealth of materials to explore. From apps and books to videos and podcasts, you have all you need to assist you in enhancing your Chinese language skills.
Of all the options, there are countless possibilities to choose from in the world of Chinese entertainment.
On-demand streaming such as Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, and many Chinese platforms have become the prime entertainment source. Binge-watching is almost second nature for us now.
The rabbit hole that starts with a promise of “Just one more episode?” leaves us finishing entire seasons at one go.
What if I say you could put the so-called waste of time to the best use, like studying Mandarin?
How? Let’s find out!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- How can TV Series improve your Chinese language?
- 21 Must-Watch Chinese TV Series for Learning Mandarin
- 1. Day and Night (白夜追凶) — 2017
- 2. Chosen (杀无赦) — 2018
- 3. Take my brother away (快把我哥带走) — 2017
- 4. Ode to Joy (欢乐颂) — 2016
- 5. A Bright World (世界青年说) — 2015
- 6. A love so beautiful (致我们单纯的小美好) — 2017
- 7. Go Ahead (以家人之名) — 2020
- 8. Love till the end of summer (夏至未至) — 2017
- 9. My Huckleberry Friends (你好) — 2017
- 10. Put your head on my shoulder (致我们暖暖的小时光) — 2019
- 11. Empresses in the Palace (后宫甄嬛传) — 2011
- 12. Meteor Garden (流星花园) — 2018
- 13. Scissor Seven (刺客伍六七) — 2020
- 14. Kangsi Coming (康熙來了) — 2004
- 15. My Fair Princess (还珠格格) — 1998
- 16. A little reunion (小欢喜) — 2019
- 17. The King’s Avatar (全职高手) — 2019
- 18. The Victims’ Game (谁是被害者) — 2020
- 19. Nirvana in Fire (琅琊榜) — 2015
- 20. When a Snail Falls in Love (如果蜗牛有爱情) — 2016
- 21. Fated to Love You (命中注定我愛你) — 2008
- Final Words on studying Chinese with TV Series
How can TV Series improve your Chinese language?
Something as simple as watching a TV show could be a chance in the waiting. Use it wisely, and voilà! You are on your way to learning a brand-new language or improving an existing one.
Watching TV episodes or movies to learn Mandarin is an excellent way to enhance your reading and listening abilities. You can also increase new vocabulary and experience the language in a natural setting.
Dramas and TV shows cater to ordinary people and everyday language. So even though it is kept simple and is easy to follow, you may learn a lot of colloquial and slang.
Seeing Chinese TV series is a great way to learn idioms and proverbs. You also hear and practice the authentic Mandarin Chinese spoken by locals.
Almost all Chinese shows and films include subtitles in Chinese characters. This is a significant benefit since it lets you become familiar with the symbols, honorifics, and sounds.
Did you know that our brain keeps information associated with whatever we enjoy more quickly?
For example, as opposed to reading from a textbook, you are much more likely to recall the words and phrases you learn while watching a show.
So why not make the most of your time by combining productivity with enjoying Mandarin TV series?
Also, learning Mandarin Chinese from a TV show would mean that the conversations you hear would provide a lot of context. It would then help you understand the meaning and usage of the words you learn.
This will help to study not only the grammar and vocabulary but also the way of speaking and pronunciations as the natives speak it.
TV shows give you the advantage of vicariously living the lifestyle and culture of the Chinese.
Shows often talk about the trending and viral issues and popularize the phrases and notions that are currently the most used amongst the natives.
It would help you identify, feel more connected, and understand different Chinese languages.
Remember that seeing Chinese TV series requires more effort than just sitting back and watching. To understand what they are saying, you must actively take part.
Don’t forget to write anything you hear you don’t understand! Then, you can pause, go slow, repeat, and keep a dictionary by your side to assist you with your study.
Where can you watch Chinese TV shows?
Once you have decided to watch Chinese shows, the next big question is where to watch them.
iQIYI, WeTv, Viki, Mango TV, Youku, Tencent Video, Migu Video, Bilibili, PPTV, and Sohu TV are some of the top picks. These websites also offer all entertaining Chinese TV Series legally and freely.
There are many more choices like YouTube, Vimeo, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, MX Player, and other online streaming channels. So you can enjoy Chinese TV series in your comfort.
Netflix has a massive library of Chinese films and TV Series across genres. From comedy and thriller to romance and drama, you will find everything.
Plus, you can enjoy documentaries, animated, award-winning Netflix originals, etc. You can watch as much as you want whenever you fancy.
Most do not offer download options. But a few, such as YouKu, Amazon, Netflix, and Tencent Video, allow you to download Chinese TV series on your mobile or laptop. You can then see them later with no internet connection.
You can access lots of free content. But most require a subscription plan or VIP access for full access to all videos and premium features.
21 Must-Watch Chinese TV Series for Learning Mandarin
Doing what you like is the best way to learn anything. For example, if you love watching Chinese TV series and learning Mandarin, combine both to take your language journey to the next level.
The only remaining point to address would be: where should I begin?
So, we’ve compiled a list of the best 21 TV series to learn Chinese. This is certain to get you started learning Mandarin.
1. Day and Night (白夜追凶) — 2017
This show is considered one of the best suspense shows ever produced in mainland China.
It’s a crime drama about a brilliant investigator who has a phobia of the dark and how to exchange identities at night. He solves murder cases with his identical twin brother, who is a fugitive.
Meanwhile, they are gathering evidence to show that the fleeing brother is not guilty. The plot captivates you and makes you want to watch each episode right after the other.
In terms of language, many of the characters have a Beijing accent. Unlike other dialects, practically everyone in China understands without difficulty because of Mandarin. This is China’s official dialect and is based on the Beijing dialect.
2. Chosen (杀无赦) — 2018
Based on an American show of the same name, Chosen is a superb option for beginners to learn the language from.
This action-thriller is based in Australia and follows the story of a surgeon. He receives a gun and a photograph of a stranger. Then orders to murder the stranger in the photograph.
A good part of the show features English lines that will help make it familiar and engaging.
Except for the starring character, who speaks with a slight Taiwanese accent, the Mandarin in this episode is natural and standard. This makes it easy to follow.
3. Take my brother away (快把我哥带走) — 2017
This Chinese TV Series is a must-see for everyone who likes the comedy genre. “Take My Brother Away” is a sitcom about a high school girl’s relationship with her younger brother.
The story follows Shi Miao and Shi Fen as they navigate the hardships of growing up without their parents around them. They steer life through negotiating friendships and issues at school.
The Mandarin used in this comedy is conventional and understandable. Also, because the show is about the day-to-day lives of a high school girl and her brother, you can pick up a lot of beginner phrases.
4. Ode to Joy (欢乐颂) — 2016
Ode to Joy is a TV show about five modern ladies who reside on the same floor of the “Ode to Joy” apartment complex in Shanghai.
The story is very entertaining and easy to follow. It depicts several modern Chinese ladies guiding their way through the happiness and struggles of life.
This Chinese TV series also delves into various delicate topics. For instance, money, being raised as an orphan in Chinese society and being an outcast among people. The routine conversations will help you pick up essential words and phrases.
5. A Bright World (世界青年说) — 2015
‘A Bright World’ is a Chinese reality show that features panel discussions among foreigners. Every episode shows a panel of young and attractive foreigners living in China.
Every week, the topic of conversation is different and spread across various subjects. Each participant expresses their personal opinion on the subject.
This talk show is helpful for beginners since it may motivate them to observe immigrants speak proficient Chinese. If you aim to make a career requiring Chinese, watch it.
6. A love so beautiful (致我们单纯的小美好) — 2017
A Love So Beautiful is a typical high-school Chinese drama. The story revolves around a group of high school friends and their life as students. Like with most dramas, a happy girl admires the “ideal” guy, who is well known for his looks and achievements.
A Love So Beautiful, much like its title, is a sweet and light drama set primarily in high school. However, it does the transition to adulthood later. You cannot afford to miss this show and appreciate innocent and easy-to-grasp stories.
The dialogues in this show are simple and mundane. It is a fantastic place to learn teenage slang and the appealing aspects of the language.
This drama has a lot of unfamiliar words because it shows such varied lives. Thus, many fields are covered. This can help intermediate levels of HSK.
7. Go Ahead (以家人之名) — 2020
Go Ahead is a Chinese drama series based on family and their bonds. It is the saga of three children who are not blood-related to begin with but become family to one another.
They continue supporting one another through the ups and downs of life and help each other. The story shows all the characters’ life stages, from childhood through adulthood.
As life happens, minor skirmishes and issues start affecting their bond. Still, their relationship does not break, and they make it through these obstacles.
The conversations involve common topics and family matters. So, it comprises basic Chinese phrases which will be easy for you to learn and understand. This can also help you clear the initial levels of the Mandarin proficiency test.
8. Love till the end of summer (夏至未至) — 2017
Love Till the End of Summer, also known as Rush to the Dead Summer, is a Chinese drama. This is based on a novel of the same name authored by Guo Jingming.
They spread the tale of the drama over ten years. It follows a group of young, ambitious high school friends who select different paths after graduating.
Everyone is chasing their aspirations. But they are all confronted with obstacles such as difficulties, broken bonds and promises, and legal troubles. And even the deaths of friends and family.
Each of the friends evolves, and they begin to distrust each other’s friendship over the years.
9. My Huckleberry Friends (你好) — 2017
Another high-school romance, My Huckleberry Friends, is a coming-of-age story with a romantic subplot.
It is based on the novel Hello, Old Times by Ba Yue Chang An. Yu Zhou Zhou, a math genius and our primary character battle her family and professors to pursue her interest in the liberal arts.
She defies their expectations and pursues what she truly desires. But when rumors start affecting her friendships, how will she handle it?
My Huckleberry Friends series tells a beautiful narrative about friendship and passion. The contemporary language is simple enough to learn from, making this drama a must-watch.
10. Put your head on my shoulder (致我们暖暖的小时光) — 2019
In this show, Situ Mo is a graduate student. She always underestimates herself. This results from believing that she will never be self-sufficient and is unsure about her plans.
After being estranged for a while, she meets Gu Wei, a physics major. They are both drawn to one another without even recognizing it. Yet, destiny is on their side, and they must realize to live with one another.
This Chinese TV Series is the perfect rom-com with emotions portrayed in the raw sense. The language is also great to pick up and deals with university students, thus being relevant.
11. Empresses in the Palace (后宫甄嬛传) — 2011
Empresses in the Palace is a period Chinese period drama set during the Qing Dynasty. This is one of the best historical dramas broadcast on mainland China in recent years.
As you would expect from Chinese cinematography, it has an outstanding visual appearance. But the story’s point of view is also what makes it different, and it has all elements like love, loss, and betrayal to keep you at the edge.
With amazing scenes, stories, and stars, this is one of the top-notch Chinese TV series for Mandarin learners. You can watch it free on YouTube.
Dialogues are tricky to understand and require advanced-level skills. Yet, this Chinese series can help for higher levels of Mandarin HSK test.
12. Meteor Garden (流星花园) — 2018
The journey of school friends is the central plot of Meteor Garden. They accepted the main character into a prestigious school. Still, she is bullied by a student, making it challenging for her to fit into life among the affluent and elites.
Eventually, she finds friendship with a group of boys who help her deal with her struggles and bullying.
This show has the themes of powerful and genuine friendship and high-school struggles in a lovely way. As with most high school dramas, the language is straightforward and not complicated.
13. Scissor Seven (刺客伍六七) — 2020
The plot follows Seven, a hairdresser with amnesia who lives with his buddy and boss, Daibo, who also is a chicken. It has lots of action, animation, and adventure.
Seven is convinced that he needs to save money for a costly medical procedure because his history is a mystery. So he decides that becoming an assassin is the ideal way.
Seven is, however, a goofball who cannot kill anything despite being able to manipulate the weapon of his choice — scissors.
This series is a must-watch for refining your Chinese jokes. Novices can see the show with English subtitles. Intermediate and advanced students can try Chinese subtitles.
14. Kangsi Coming (康熙來了) — 2004
Even though “Kangsi Coming” is a Taiwanese variety talk show, it is worth noting as a TV show that might help you learn Chinese. It’s amusing and addicting.
With nearly 3,000 episodes over 12 years, you get the impression that you’re learning something new while viewing it.
The hosts of the show discuss the most contentious issues and queries.
They also bring issues to life in a way that is astonishingly delightful and exciting. Finally, as an outcome, it allows show performers and audience members to participate in the discourse.
The only disadvantage is there are no English subtitles. Thus, this makes it suitable for advanced or upper-intermediate learners rather than beginners.
15. My Fair Princess (还珠格格) — 1998
They set this narrative in ancient Beijing and follow two characters. ‘Little Swallow’ is a street performer who works as a con artist. And a well-mannered girl who was revealed to be the Chinese emperor’s illegitimate child.
The two girls join to bring the emperor’s daughter back to her father. But, unluckily, ‘Little Swallow’ is escorted to the palace instead because of misunderstandings.
This iconic series was China’s most financially successful drama series for almost two decades. It combines poised, imperial, and comedic elements.
It is an ideal watch for intermediate students of the Chinese language. If you wish to go to China for higher study, TV series like this can help.
16. A little reunion (小欢喜) — 2019
The ‘Gaokao,’ China’s infamous college admission exam, which is a big deal in China, is shown in this show. Three senior high school students and their families go through many emotions as they work through life to find their ambitions.
The Chinese TV series depicts their lives, challenges, tensions, and concerns. It happens when students prepare for the most crucial yet challenging examination of their lives.
The family bonds and friendships give a solid background to the rich language. It also gives a direct peek into the life of Chinese families and teenagers, which is a splendid reason not to miss this show.
17. The King’s Avatar (全职高手) — 2019
The Kings Avatar is an e-sports series from China focused on action. Unfortunately, former gaming champion Ye Xiu has been forced to retire.
As a manager of an internet café, he spends his time after he falls from the top. After that, he reinvents himself online and slowly works his way back to the top.
This is an exceptional drama for gamers who want to learn about Chinese gaming culture and are into gaming.
This Chinese TV series is meant for elementary-level learners. But, despite that, you gain many sports-related words and sentences for daily use.
18. The Victims’ Game (谁是被害者) — 2020
This Chinese Netflix drama explores true crime and the law. This is a Taiwanese Netflix original series with plenty of Taiwanese accents.
The story revolves around forensic scientist Fang Yi-Jen and journalist Hsu Hai-Yin. Fang Yi-Jen’s daughter is linked to mysterious murders, and they risk everything to solve the case.
This drama is only meant for advanced-level speakers. It comprises some complicated words and phrases related to law. Plus, there are lots of Taiwanese accents.
For example, if you are preparing for the Chinese proficiency test TOCFL advanced Band C.
19. Nirvana in Fire (琅琊榜) — 2015
Adapted from Hai Yan’s book Lang Ya Bang, Nirvana in Fire is a historical drama.
12 years earlier, Lin Shu had been accused of treason for his family’s involvement in a conspiracy. So, to seek justice, he, under the alias Mei Changsu, enters Liang’s capital in this Chinese drama.
This is one of the most viewed Chinese TV series. There is also a sequel, Nirvana in Fire II: The Wind Blows in Chang Lin, that was released in 2017 end.
This TV show is remarkable for intermediate-level learners. There are some complex phrases and tricky honorifics. Yet, you can take advantage of this series, which can be great motivation!
20. When a Snail Falls in Love (如果蜗牛有爱情) — 2016
If you are looking for a nail-biting thriller and mystery series, check out When a Snail Falls in Love. You won’t be disappointed with this show with 21 episodes.
As one of the best dramas of 2016, it received over 1 billion views online. The show has the potential to keep you at the edge of your seat throughout this Chinese TV series.
Solving crimes is the theme of the show. The psychology unit’s XuXu is a criminal profiler who can read situations and infer meaning. Ji Bai is the unit’s captain, a fun character, and one that does the hard stuff.
The dialogues and storyline in each episode are slow and easy to follow. So it offers you better contexts to comprehend and learn new words.
21. Fated to Love You (命中注定我愛你) — 2008
Fated to Love you is a Rom-Com Taiwanese television series.
There are many fun plot twists in this romantic and comedy show. Because of a series of accidents, two strangers are forced to stay together.
As the name says, “Fated to Love You” is a magnificent love story with many comical scenes and romance. Many twists also keep your binge-watch for the entire series.
The storylines have many things from traditional Chinese but have simple words and sentences. You will see many things from the Taiwanese Chinese variant. Thus, if you intend to take the TOCFL test, watch this.
Final Words on studying Chinese with TV Series
A word of caution. Chinese TV Series alone are not enough to learn Mandarin.
But viewing it in conjunction with studying Chinese through a teacher or language school can benefit you incredibly. You can also take the help of Chinese language learning apps.
TV shows help you improve your listening skills. It can also expand your vocabulary and deepen your understanding of China’s rich history, culture, and customs.
I’m sure you’re encouraged to take on this enjoyable and doable task by now. Something as meaningful as studying Chinese has become much more entertaining and easy thanks to these 21 TV series!
These are just a few TV shows that can help you learn Chinese. This can be a start and will surely motivate you to enhance your language skills and enjoy yourself simultaneously.
So go ahead and begin your journey to learn both the Mandarin language and way of living through Chinese TV Series.
Do you have any recommendations or want to suggest any missed-out Chinese TV series? Please feel free to share in the comments below.