Chinese Drama Tropes I’m Sick Of

I love Chinese dramas, and within the last couple of years I’ve been watching way more than is probably good for my health. However, the more I watch, the more I realize there are certain clichés that I see a lot in different dramas that I’m so over.

A quick disclaimer before I get into this list: just because a certain trope is here does not mean it can’t be done well. There are exceptions to every rule, and I’m making generalizations here. Just so that no one gets too upset if one of their favorite tropes is on this list.

“I’m Dead….JK, I’m Fine”

Leave Zhao You Ting GIF
Gif from Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms

This trope appears is so many of my favorite dramas (Ashes of Love, Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms, The Flame’s Daughter, etc.). You know the ones. One of your favorite characters has a dramatic death scene (usually lasting way too long), only to show up an episode later with a, “Surprise! Oh, you thought I was really dead? Well, joke’s on you.”

And you, who cried your eyes out when they died, feel angry and betrayed. It’s gotten to a point that many times, even when a character does die and stays dead, I just roll my eyes and say, “Oh, they’ll be back, I’m sure.”

In a sense, this trope takes away the impact a good death scene can have. While I hate when my favorite characters die, it is so much more impactful when you know its final. That there is no way to save them. With this trope, you have no idea if they are really dead or not.

Girl Travels Back in Time, Falls for Handsome, Rich Dude (probably the emperor or at least a prince)

Gif from Oh My Emperor

I’ve noticed this trope especially in the last couple years. Let me name a few dramas which came out in 2018 (and these are just the ones I’ve watched) which follow this trope. The Eternal Love. Princess at Large. Oh My Emperor. Chef Cinderella. And that’s just naming a few! All in one year! That is insane.

And often times, the actual fact that the girl is modern and has traveled back in time plays little part in the drama besides the fact that she acts all independent and stuff and the main guy usually likes her for it. Maybe this trope worked one time, but after seeing it a dozen times, it just gets so boring!

See the source image

Saying that, I do love this trope. One of the first Chinese dramas I ever watched, Jade Palace, Lock Heart (2011), does this and at the time it was such a novelty concept. But now, eight years later, it feels so overdone!

Two Brothers Fall For The Same Girl

See the source image
Picture from Ice Fantasy

Brothers tend to have a lot in common, right? So it would make sense for them to fall for the same girl, right…well, I dearly hope not!

I get it, Asian dramas in general love to insert love triangles wherever they can, and if done right I don’t hate that trope. But the whole idea of two brothers falling in love with the same girl just seems so wrong to me, especially since it usually means that their brotherly friendship will fall apart. You see it in Ashes of Love, The Princess of Weiyoung, Ice Fantasy, and a multitude of other dramas. I think it bothers me most because I love seeing healthy brother relationships in dramas, and this trope tears apart any hope I have for those brothers to get along! I just love sibling relationships is dramas in general.

See the source image

A similar trope to this is two best friends fall for the same girl. While this bothers me a bit too, because often their friendship is destroyed by the romance, it’s definitely not as bad as actual brothers.

The Emperor is the Bad Guy or Useless (if he’s not the main lead)

See the source image
The Emperor from The General and I

This is a trope that bothers my sister and, to be honest, it bothers me too. I’m not talking about the dramas where the main guy is the emperor. I’m talking about all the dramas where another character is the emperor and he is either evil or useless. A few examples include The General and I, Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms, Oh My General (according to my sister, though I only watched the first few episodes), The Legend of Fuyao, etc.

Just because your main leads aren’t the emperor doesn’t mean they have to be horrible human beings whose only existence is to conflict with the main characters’ goals or to just sit back and be useless. What ever happened to complexity in characters?

You can have a conflict with the emperor without him being a generic caricature of one of these two tropes.

The Male Lead Has to Be Angsty and Cool

See the source image
Huang Xiaoming from Cruel Romance

Is it possible to ever ask for a polite, decent human being as the main male lead? You get it a lot with the female leads. Often times, she’s kind, generous, and moral. And he’s always angsty, tormented, and absurdly cool for no apparent reason. With this trope, it’s actually harder to find where the opposite is true.

Off the top of my head, I can only think of a few male leads who don’t fall into this trope. But to name of few who do: Love Me If You Dare, Pretty Li Hui Zhen, Cruel Romance, Go Princess Go, The King of Blaze…I could go on for a while. Again, I actually like this trope, but when it’s repeated in so many dramas it becomes predictable and annoying. This trope, unlike many I’ve previously mentioned, falls into both the modern and historical drama genre, and both are guilty of it.

See the source image

Is it too much to ask for a completely ordinary man to be the male lead more often? No? Well, I can still complain about it!


What are tropes you are sick of seeing, whether it’s in Chinese dramas or just TV shows in general? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more madness and, as always,

Best wishes in your life full of adventure,

Madame Writer

15 thoughts on “Chinese Drama Tropes I’m Sick Of

    1. Hmm… that’s hard. Most of the dramas I’ve seen have at least one cliche. Go Princess Go is a drama which plays with a lot of cliches, making fun of them. Siege of Fog, while really serious with a sad ending, does a good job avoiding most cliches. Love Me If You Dare is a modern drama (and still has a bit of the cliche of a brooding, dark male lead), but it mostly avoids cliches. But honestly even my favorite Chinese dramas are filled with cliches.


  1. In cdramas, I always want to shout at caretakers, “What’s the matter with you! Don’t feed liquids to unconscious people! They’ll choke!” but of course, they’ll do that every time and never a choking coughing fit to be seen or heard from the patients. 😄. not to mention the severe mouth hemorrhage that is fixed with broth, super-chunk ball pills and a little bed rest. lol. but I admit.. I do LOVE cdramas and kdramas! My poor hubby would permanently throw his back out if he tried to give me a piggyback ride. 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, cdramas aren’t the most accurate, in more ways than one, but like you said, I love them too even despite their silly tropes. And I know my boyfriend would throw his back out if he gave me piggyback rides!


  2. Some of the tropes you’ve found, from my point of view, show people’s strange and contradictory attitudes towards power and money.

    On one hand, it’s so common in the TV series that a kind, simple, plain Jane successfully makes a handsome, rich, powerful man fall in love with her, which satisfys many female viewers daydreams.

    On the other hand, rich and powerful guys are usually evil and immoral if they are villains, which is used to show the virtues the protagonist have, just as you’ve mentioned.

    Lol it’s so interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with you! There are psychological reasons why filmmakers insert certain tropes, because they already know people’s reaction towards it. And most viewers don’t analyze movies as much as I usually do.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’d like to share an embarrassing clip that cracked me up! And it’s included in one of the tropes you’ve listed.

    A woman graspes a tree and meanwhile grabs a man in order not to fall off the cliff. But only one of them can survive because the tree is about to break off.
    The man decides to sacrifice but she refuses. And then they argues and expresses love for each other in face of death… I saw some viewers ranted that it was you (the man) that tightly grasped her and doesn’t let go of her! Let her go!😱
    As you can guess, it takes a long time. Finally she lets go of him and He fell off the cliff. His final gesture and smile are like saying look how handsome I am and I’m happy to beautifully die!😅
    Meanwhile, the sad, touching music reverbarated…
    I know the screenplay writer and director intented to make this plot impressive. But all I feel is cliched, embarrassing and even funny. 😂😅

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes! There are so many scenes like that! I view them as “hilarious tragedies”. 😜When scenes like that come out, bullet screens are so fun to read lol ( like the”let her go” rant I mentioned)

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Ya, although I think that time travel trope is pretty dumb, I can’t help liking it. And its cousin, where the protagonist falls into a rabbit hole and ends up in a magical world. It’s just… It’s so rare to see it done well. Especially the time travel bit. Most of the time it just comes across as pandering. “Oh, wouldn’t it be so cool and romantic to live in medieval times and fall in love with a courteous knight?” Uh, yech.

    I guess I ought to be thankful, though. 😀 Seeing my favourite tropes ruined is just the reason why I became a writer.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s