Did you know that you can improve your Chinese A LOT from watching Chinese TV shows? Does it sound too good to be true?
Well, here’s the good news. Watching Chinese TV shows is actually an amazing way to improve your Chinese, especially your reading and listening skills. It also helps you learn new vocabulary and experience the language in a very engaging way.
There are a plethora of resources to explore — you can easily find lots of Chinese TV shows and films on YouTube, Netflix, or other streaming platforms. Most of them come with Chinese characters subtitle, which is a great chance to get familiar with the characters and their corresponding sounds.
However, the most important thing is to find the right TV show that you really enjoy watching, that has high-quality content, and is easy to watch. This makes the learning experience pleasurable and motivates you to remain consistent. This article will suggest the top five most popular Chinese TV shows best recommended for all Chinese learners.
1. A Bite of China (舌尖上的中国 – Shéjiān shàng de zhōngguó)
A Bite of China is a Chinese documentary television series on the history of food, eating, and cooking in China directed by Chen Xiaoqing (陈晓卿), narrated by Li Lihong (李立宏), consulted by notable chefs such as Shen Hongfei (沈宏非) and Chua Lam (蔡澜) and original music composed by Roc Chen (阿鲲).
First aired May 14, 2012, this series quickly gained high ratings and widespread popularity. There are currently three seasons, introducing the history and story behind foods of various kinds in more than 60 locations in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. There are as many as 115 filming locations, more than 300 people being interviewed, and more than 400 dishes have been shot. The program has successfully brought a great visual and spiritual feast to its audiences.
The first season brings to the audience the Chinese daily diet, different eating habits, unique taste aesthetics, and the values of oriental life that have risen to the level of survival wisdom. The second season explores the relationship between the Chinese people and their food when food is used as a pathway to understanding China. It depicts and perceives Chinese people’s cultural traditions, concepts about family, life attitudes, and home-bound emotions by showing the multiple aspects of people’s daily life related to food. The last season takes a closer look at the beauty of food, and the cultural roots of Chinese cuisine from afar, thoroughly exploring some more valuable and charming Chinese stories.
You can watch this series on YouTube.
If you’re interested in Chinese cuisine, you can also check some of our articles about delectable Chinese food:
2. Empresses in the Palace (后宫甄嬛传 hòugōng zhēnhuán zhuàn)
In recent years, historical dramas have gained immense popularity in China. Empresses in the Palace is praised as one of the best series ever broadcast in mainland China.
With the main concept set during the Qing dynasty (1636–1912), this Chinese drama brings you back into the glorious royal life and the imperial Chinese harem system (which consisted of eight classes of concubines). It tells the story about Zhen Huan, the beautiful concubine, and her journey to become the emperor’s favorite and the most powerful concubine of the dynasty. On the other hand, the empress, who is extremely jealous and will not stand for any other concubine to threaten her power, has set her sights on Zhen Huan. That’s why the empress decides that she must get rid of Zhen Huan at all costs…
During the series, you will experience endless palace intrigue, plotting and backstabbing between the concubines. You will also experience numerous extravagant costumes, and the outstanding act of China’s best actresses and actors like Sun Li (孙俪) and Li Dongxue (李东学).
3. Nirvana in Fire (琅琊榜 lángyá bǎng)
Nirvana in Fire is an extremely successful quintessential drama about martial arts (武侠 wǔxiá) with a total number of 3.3 billion views. It was even considered a social media phenomenon, generating 3.55 billion posts on Sina Weibo that praised its characters and storyline.
This drama is directed by Kong Sheng (孔笙) and Li Xue (李雪) and stars Hu Ge (胡歌), Liu Tao (刘涛), and Wang Kai (王凯). It tells the story of Lin Shu, who, under the alias Mei Changsu, enters the capital of Liang to seek justice for a conspiracy that labeled his family as traitors 12 years before.
This series also received lots of positive reviews from audiences around the world. It is praised for being deep and emotionally intertwining with endless wit battles, extraordinary acting and character developments, and exceptional costumes, art, music, and voice.
4. Informal Talks (非正式会谈 fēi zhèngshì huìtán)
This is one of the most popular Chinese TV shows discussing various topics and issues in Mandarin. Each episode showcases a panel of young foreigners living in China, sharing their opinions on trending topics and current events that millennials care about. Due to the cultural differences, you would be surprised by what they think and say!
The atmosphere of the show is meant to emulate a meeting of the world’s future leaders. However, the tone can range from serious to emotional or humorous. They discussed various topics, ranging from “should you hide social media updates from your parents” to “what would you do if today is the last day of your life.” Overall, this is an informal, international, multicultural, and entertaining TV show that is perfect for Chinese beginners and those looking for some intellectual stimulation in a friendly and relaxed context.
You can watch Informal Talks on YouTube.
5. Mr. Zhou Live Show (壹周立波秀 yī zhōulìbō xiù)
Mr. Zhou Live Show is a live talk show hosted by the stand-up comedian Zhou Libo (周立波). This is a great source to gain insight into the unique sense of humor you’re likely to encounter in China. Like his stand-up, Zhou does not have scripts or notes, creating his own material through improvisation. The show also includes guest interviews and Zhou dropped his Shanghai dialect to have a more accessible audience, although his Shanghainese accent still comes through.
However, this is probably more suitable for the advanced learners, especially with Zhou Libo’s Shanghainese accent. So don’t feel discouraged if you don’t understand Mr. Zhou’s jokes!
You can watch Mr. Zhou Live Show on Youtube.
The bottom line
Immersing yourself in a Chinese environment, especially through Chinese media, will bring you a deeper understanding of modern Chinese culture and reinforce what you’ve already learned from your Chinese textbooks. It can also enhance your Chinese reading and listening skills and encourage you to learn conversational Chinese and even slang.
What’s more, watching Chinese TV Shows doesn’t seem to be an intensive and stressful learning method. Instead of relying on your usual TV shows to sit back and relax, why not consider watching something in Chinese?instead. You will be surprised by how much you will learn!
If you’d like to explore more effective ways to learn Chinese in your free time, take a look at these articles:
- Great 11 Websites To Learn Chinese Through Movies Effectively.
- Top 10 Methods To Learn Chinese Online.
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