Guardian to Rattan: Have you watched these sci-fi Chinese dramas? (2024)

While much of Asian entertainment may have been saturated by South Korea, Mainland China is now fast on the rise with their own slew of television shows and films that are just as worthy of your time and attention. This is especially true in the science fiction genre, where time travel and interstellar adventures proliferate some of the most popular Chinese shows to date, with a broad ensemble cast and truly gripping storylines. Here is our list of the best Chinese sci-fi dramas you should add to your to-watch list.

The massive success of Netflix’s recent sci-fi series 3 Body Problem(2024–) is proof that global audiences are hungry for sci-fi stories springing out of Chinese minds — the show is based on Chinese author Liu Cixin’s book series (though, it does differ from the source material quite a bit).

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Created by David Benioff, D. B. Weiss and Alexander Woo, 3 Body Problem has been the most-watched show on the platform for two weeks straight according to Deadline. Clocking 15 million views from 25 to 31 March, it scored another 8.3 million views in the following week. It dethroned Guy Ritchie’s The Gentlemen TV series to take the top spot.

David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, in case you forgot, were also behind another gargantuan production, HBO’s Game of Thrones (2011–2019).

Anyhoo, let’s embark on a journey to the future (or another world, as the case may be) and explore the best Chinese sci-fi dramas. These science fiction Chinese dramas will ignite your imagination and, hopefully, leave you yearning for more.

Unveiling the best science fiction Chinese dramas: Futuristic and interstellar adventures

Jump To / Table of Contents

  • Let's Shake It! (2017–2018)
  • Sweet Dreams (2018)
  • The King of Blaze (2018)
  • The Bionic Life (2023)
  • Rattan (2021)
  • You from the Future (2023)
  • The Heart of Genius (2022)
  • Three-Body (2023–)
  • Guardian (2018)
  • Reset (2022)

1 /10

Let's Shake It! (2017–2018)

IMDb rating: 6.9

Directed by: Wang Yan

Cast: Zheng Ye Cheng, An Yue Xi, Gao Jun Hai

No. of episodes: 25

Approximate duration of each episode: 40 minutes

Synopsis: A Bu Cha Cha (Yue Xi), an extraterrestrial warrior, crash lands on Chinese soil from outer space during the Tang Dynasty and assumes the identity of a young lady. However, she gets entangled in court politics and due to some strange circ*mstances, ends up developing a love-hate relationship with the dynasty heir Tang Qing Feng (Ye Cheng).

2 /10

Sweet Dreams (2018)

IMDb rating: 7

Directed by: Jin Sha, Yu Bo

Cast: Dilraba Dilmurat, Deng Lun, Zhu Xudan

No. of episodes: 49

Approximate duration of each episode: 45 minutes

Synopsis: Ling Ling Qi (Dilmurat) is a kind but insecure hotel employee. She finds herself drawn romantically to her colleague Bo Hai (Lun) but is afraid. One day, the two participate in an experiment conducted by a technology company, which somehow goes wrong and gives Ling Qi the ability to visit Bo Hai’s dreams. More courageous in the dream world, Ling Qi helps Hai overcome his childhood trauma. This also ends up deepening their real-world bond.

Image: Courtesy of Sweet Dreams/ IMDb

3 /10

The King of Blaze (2018)

IMDb rating: 7.2

Directed by: You Su Lan

Cast: Chen Bo Lin, Jing Tian, Zhang Yi Jie

No. of episodes: 28

Approximate duration of each episode: 45 minutes

Synopsis: Thousands of years before our story begins, there was an idyllic planet that was the home to gods. Among them were the Fire God (Bo Lin) and Wind Goddess (Tian), who loved each other. One day, the planet gets attacked by powerful dark powers and the gods suffer losses. In the aftermath, the Wind Goddess is lost. To find an alternate source of wind power and maintain the balance, Fire God travels to Tang Dynasty China, where he encounters somebody who looks exactly like the Wind Goddess. They fall in love.

About the show: The show is a cross between a fantasy romance and science fiction. It is based on the Taiwanese manhua of the same name by You Su Lan.

IMDb rating: 7.4

Directed by: Leste Chen, Hsu Chao Jen

Cast: Song Weilong, Vicky Chen

No. of episodes: 12

Approximate duration of each episode: 40-50 minutes

Synopsis: In 2035, the rapid advancement in the technology behind humanoid robots is a public concern. The boundary between humans and robots has become increasingly blurred, reshaping the destinies of both parties. Cheng Nuo (Weilong) and An Qiu (Chen), members of an organisation called ‘Mingmou’, are looking into murders of humanoid robots.

IMDb rating: 7.5

Directed by: LI Mu Ge

Cast: Jing Tian, Vin Zhang, Zhang Yi Chi

No. of episodes: 30

Approximate duration of each episode: 40-50 minutes

Synopsis: A plant-alien hybrid called Si Teng (Tian) is resurrected by architect Qin Fang’s (Zhang) unknowing actions, thrusting her into modern Shanghai. Wanting to get back her memories, she asks for Qin Fang’s help. She begins a journey of self-discovery and love. However, their happiness is threatened as Si Teng’s mysterious past and relentless hunters resurface.

About the show: Rattan is based on the novel of the same name by Wei Yu.

Here are some movies and TV shows based on novels

6 /10

You from the Future (2023)

IMDb rating: 7.6

Directed by: Zhou Yong

Cast: Luo Zheng, Ji Mei Han, Yang Ze

No. of episodes: 24

Approximate duration of episodes: 30 minutes

Synopsis: Recent graduate Xia Mo (Ji Mei Han) aims to be a Hanfu (Han Chinese traditional clothing) blogger and moves into her parents’ coastal house. But the house is occupied by tech CEO Shen Junyao (Luo Zheng). Despite initial annoyance, they agree to share the place. As they begin living together, Xia Mo’s forthcoming job links her to Shen Junyao’s company, StanTech. An intelligent robot, Starlight, helps Shen Junyao discover Mo’s endearing qualities. When Xia Mo’s crush Lin Heng pursues her, Shen Junyao competes for her affection.

IMDb rating: 7.6

Directed by: Shen Yan

Cast: Zhang Zi Feng, Lei Jia Yin, Zhang Xin Cheng

No. of episodes: 34

Approximate duration of episodes: 45 minutes

Synopsis: A young girl Lin Zhao Xi’s (Zi Feng) father is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. On the same day, and she also learns her crush Pei Zhi (Xin Cheng) is moving abroad. She suffers from a feeling of inadequacy compared to the math prodigy that was Zhi. She eventually discovers her potential when she meets her father’s younger self in an alternate reality. Using his teachings, she begins to do quite well in mathematics. Now more confident, she pursues mathematical research with Pei Zhi about the thorny P versus NP problem (which, interestingly, is an actual unsolved problem in computer science; you can read more about it here).

About the show: The Heart of Genius is an adaptation of the web novel Genius Fundamentals by Zhang Er.

IMDb rating: 7.6

Directed by: Vincent Yang, Yang Lei

Cast: Edward Zhang, Yu He Wei, Chen Jin, Wang Zi Wen

No. of episodes: 30

Approximate duration of each episode: 45 minutes

Synopsis: After a disruptive event observed by the Earth’s scientific community, nanomaterials researcher Wang Miao (Zhang) is drawn into a complex investigation led by police officer Shi Qiang (Wei). As they probe the issue deeper, they uncover a mysterious organisation called ETO, led by Ye Wenjie (Jin), whose son’s suicide is linked to the disturbance. Through the discovery of a virtual reality game called the Three-Body Problem, they learn of an ongoing cosmic struggle between civilisations.

About the show: Like Netflix’s 3 Body Problem, this show, too, is based on Liu Cixin’s book series called Remembrance of Earth’s Past. Many viewers prefer this version over the American one as it is more faithful to the source material.

IMDb rating: 7.7

Directed by: Zhou Jing Tao, Gao Han, Xie Yi Hang, Gu Zhi Wei

Cast: Bai Yu, Zhu Yi Long, Gao Yu Er

No. of episodes: 40

Approximate duration of episodes: 45 minutes

Synopsis: On an Earth-like habitable planet, Haixing, humanity coexists with two alien races. One, Yashou, can shapeshift and the other, Dixing, is superpowered and lives in subterranean caverns. In the present, there are whispers of an emerging conflict between Dixing and the surface-dwelling races. Investigator Zhao Yun Lan (Yu) and biological engineering professor Shen Wei (Long) are tasked with burying this undercurrent of tension before it becomes bigger.

About the show: Based on the web novel of the same name by Priest (a pseudonym), the series has as its setting a fleshed-out alien world with a deep history and lore deeply influenced by the civilisational fears we are facing today.

10 /10

Reset (2022)

IMDb rating: 8.1

Directed by: Sun Mo Long, Liu Hong Yuan

Cast: Bai Jing Ting, Zhao Jin Mai, Liu Yi Jun

No. of episodes: 15

Approximate duration of each episode: 45 minutes

Synopsis: College student Li Shi Qing is stuck in a time loop in which she is a passenger on a public service bus that explodes, killing everyone aboard. In her attempts to escape the vicious cycle, she ends up making fellow passenger Xiao He Yun a part of the loop as well. They join forces to find out who or what is behind their predicament. The premise might vaguely remind you of a certain Hollywood movie.

About the show: While the show has echoes of Duncan Jones-directed sci-fi thriller Hollywood movie Source Code (2011) starring Jake Gyllenhaal, it is actually based on a novel titled Kai Duan by Qi Dao Jun.

(Hero and Featured image: Courtesy of Guardian/ IMDb)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

-What is the best Chinese fantasy drama?

Eternal Love (2017) is considered one of the best Chinese fantasy dramas. It tells an epic love story between two divine beings. Yang Mi and Mark Chao star in lead roles.

-What is China’s top-rated drama?

The Untamed (2019) is the top-rated Chinese drama on platforms like IMDb, where it has an impressive rating of 8.8. HIStory 3: Trapped (2019) also regularly makes it to the top 10 lists with an IMDb rating of 8.2.

-Is sci-fi popular in China?

Indeed, it is. Sci-fi has been an important fixture in Chinese pop culture and that is particularly true for the last few years. The English publication of The Three-Body Problem in 2014, which also went on to win a Hugo Award, was a significant event that brought Chinese sci-fi to the global spotlight.

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Guardian to Rattan: Have you watched these sci-fi Chinese dramas? (2024)
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