10 Billion Views!? 5 Features of TV Dramas in China

Share me

I’m watching Chinese TV dramas in order to learn Chinese. Chinese TV dramas not only have subtitles, but also let me understand life and social problems in China, so it’s great learning material.

Here, I introduce the features of Chinese dramas compared to Japanese TV dramas, which are similar to TV dramas in the US.

*Note: You are not able to watch some of the online Chinese dramas from outside of China due to copyright problems.

Many episodes

Compared with Japanese TV dramas, Chinese TV dramas have much more episodes.

Japanese TV dramas, basically have 12 episodes with a 45-minute story. On the other hand, Chinese TV dramas have more than 30 episodes, for example, 32 episodes, 48 episodes, even more than 70 episodes.

According to China’s biggest video site, iQIYI (invested by Baidu), the following table shows the number of episodes for the most popular Chinese TV dramas of all time. Surprisingly, the average number is 50.6 episodes.

Rank Name Genre Episodes
1 琅琊榜 Historical Play 76
2 大秧歌 Historical Play 79
3 花千骨 Story 58
4 反恐特战队 Story 40
5 花千骨2015 Romance 32
6 少帅 Historical Play 48
7 伪装者 Story 48
8 北上广不相信眼泪 Story 44
9 大好时光 Story 38
10 煮妇神探 Romance 43

* The above is the number of episodes when broadcasting online. When broadcasting on TV, there might not be as many episodes because some are integrated.

Two Episodes Every Day

Japanese TV dramas basically broadcast one episode once a week, but Chinese ones broadcast 6 times a week (from Monday to Saturday), and two episodes every day. Therefore, even long TV dramas with more than 70 episodes conclude within two months.

FYI, one of my Chinese friends told a joke to me before. He said, “If there’s only one episode a week like in Japan, I’m going to forget what happened in the previous episodes.”

Watching TV dramas on the mobile internet

Most of the Japanese people watch TV dramas on their TVs, and watching it online is basically illegal. Netflix and Hulu provide some Japanese TV dramas, but it’s still not that common in Japan.

On the other hand, it is hard for Chinese people to watch Chinese dramas every day at fixed times, so most of the people watch them online, especially with their mobile phones. For example, when looking at the viewing population of the most popular TV drama, “琅琊榜“, it has been found that 76% viewers via mobile and 24% view via PC.

In China, the mobile distribution rate is over 90% of the population, so most of the population watch TV dramas or movies while sitting on buses or subways. You can also see that staff at convenience stores watch TV dramas while working.

However, mobile internet is not that stable in China, so most people first download the TV dramas (to cache) when they are on a wifi network, and then enjoy watching at their own convenience. This is the common style in China, so far.

Unbelievable views

Being the country with the world’s biggest population, this also results in Chinese TV dramas having the greatest amount of views around the globe. For example, the most viewed TV drama, “琅琊榜“, has more than 3.8 billion views on just the Chinese video site (iQIYI) alone. If we were to include other video sites (e.g. 3.1 billion views on Youku) and TV broadcasting, the total might be more than 10 billion views. If I were to guess, I would say that even the most famous Japanese TV drama would not exceed 1 billion views.


With Subtitles

Chinese TV dramas, for the most part, have subtitles (simplified Chinese characters), so it’s useful for learning. If you are Japanese with an intermediate level of Chinese, you could understand the basic storyline (of course, it depends).

While watching Chinese TV dramas, you can learn the unique characteristics of the Chinese language. Different places in China have different Chinese dialects, such as Shanghainese and Cantonese, so subtitles are much more important in China than in other countries. Just FYI, Chinese people who only study Mandarin, cannot completely understand Shanghainese and Cantonese, it would be like trying to understand any other foreign languages.


Among Chinese TV dramas, some clearly reflect the social issues faced in China. For example, “二胎時代” broadcasted in autumn 2015, is a Chinese TV drama related to the one-child policy which was abolished in October 2015.

I will not go into the details here, but I would like to introduce some other stories on a different occasion.