10 Reasons Why Mysterious Lotus Casebook Became Pop Culture Sensation

Mysterious Lotus Casebook, a costume/investigative/martial arts drama, is one of the most successful Chinese dramas ever aired in 2023. Even after its run ended in August, it continues to dominate discussions on social media platforms.

The series ultimately became a pop culture sensation generating a massive following and intense interest from the public, thereby influencing drama strategists to take note on the changing behavior of the viewers' preferences on dramas.

Mysterious Lotus Casebook review
Cheng Yi as Li Xiang Yi
Mysterious Lotus Casebook review
The main leads: Xiao Shunyao, Joseph Zeng, and Cheng Yi

The success of Mysterious Lotus Casebook is a good study point for producers on how to come up with a drama project that could effectively capture the audience's fascination even without pouring big bucks on promotion and without banking on big traffic stars. 

Although in Asian Dramas there are phenomenal series that also became pop culture sensations around the region such as Taiwan's Meteor Garden (2001), South Korea's Boys Over Flowers (2009), and China's The Untamed (2019), reaction of Drama fans towards Mysterious Lotus Casebook is quite different. 

Mysterious Lotus Casebook douban rating
Douban rating of Mysterious Lotus Casebook

Apart from becoming the martial arts drama that exploded in popularity this summer, Mysterious Lotus Casebook also garnered a very high score in Douban, achieving a rating of 8.3, making it the second-highest-rated costume drama this year on the said rating platform (next to An Ancient Love Song), something that other popular costume dramas this year did not achieve.

So what's the recipe for the success of Mysterious Lotus Casebook? 

Mysterious Lotus Casebook review
Cheng Yi as Li Lianhua

In a highly competitive Chinese entertainment industry, positioning a drama to be on top takes a lot of effort, time, money, and popular talents. 

It can be costly on the part of the networks and producers as they will be compelled to implement different marketing strategies and PR experimentations to create public awareness and boost the drama's popularity.

Most often than not, these marketing strategies sometimes fail, which can be bloody for producers and investors. Just look at those big-budgeted dramas top-billed by popular traffic stars that did not live up to the hype.

However, there are dramas that managed to draw public fascination despite its limited resources to fund costly promotions with main leads who are not even part of the big 10 traffic stars in the industry. Mysterious Lotus Casebook is one big example.

Related Topic: Ending Explained and our review of Mysterious Lotus Casebook

Mysterious Lotus Casebook review
Cheng Yi as Li Xiang Yi

So how did this drama manage to outperform dramas of big traffic stars in China? Here are 10 reasons we could think about why this drama became a pop culture sensation:

1. The plot is captivating - First and foremost, for a drama to draw curiosity and interest from the audience, it should have a compelling plot and storyline. No viewers in their correct senses will watch a drama that will bore them to death.

Mysterious Lotus Casebook has a riveting storyline. Centering the narrative on strange cases and crime investigations in the martial arts world, the story successfully created a sense of suspense and mystery on how the crimes occurred in a way that intrigued and surprised the viewers.

Mysterious Lotus Casebook concert
Joseph Zeng, Cheng Yi, and Xiao Shunyao

2. Coherent flow and story development - This detective drama tackles different crimes and cases to solve, however, despite the crimes being set in different locations involving different people, most of these cases are interrelated and connected to the main plot.

The main concept of Mysterious Lotus Casebook is discovering the intriguing existence of Li Lian Hua who was assuming the identity of a countryside doctor. He lives in a mobile Lotus House and moves from one place to another.

Mysterious Lotus Casebook concert
Xiao Shunyao and Cheng Yi

Later we knew he was Li Xiang Yi, the best martial artist in the world and the founder of the Si Gu sect, but 10 years ago, he was almost killed by his arch-rival, Di Fei Sheng (Xiao Shunyao) during their East Sea battle.

Realizing the devastation brought by his defeat, including the fall of his Si Gu sect, Li Xiang Yi decided to atone for his mistakes and left the martial arts world and lived in peace as Li Lian Hua.

But before retiring fully, he needed to recover the missing body of his senior, Shan Gudao (He Gang) who he believed was hidden by Di Fei Sheng's disciples. Then he met Fang Doubing, the young inspiring martial artist who claimed to be the only disciple of Li Xiang Yi.

Things took a massive turn when he joined Fang Doubing in his pursuit of justice as a detective. But despite this twist, the plot still stood loyal to the main narrative about Li Lianhua and his complex journey in the jianghu.

Mysterious Lotus Casebook review

3. Brilliant plot twists - Mysterious Lotus Casebook offers surprising plot twists in every episode, in a way that viewers less expected which made this drama really interesting. 

I particularly enjoyed how the crimes were solved by Li Lianhua and Fang Doubing, and how they were able to come up with their analysis and resolutions on the case. 

The story has quick progress but is not rushed. The development is clear but still, the twists are unpredictable, it will confront your analytical thinking about how things unfolded, which creates room for more curiosity. Read more: 5 Brilliant Plot Twists in Mysterious Lotus Casebook

4. Charisma of the main leads - Yes, the three dudes - Cheng Yi, Joseph Zeng, and Xiao Shunyao have unique charisma and their rapport is one of the best in Asian dramas in recent memory. 

Their temperament and demeanor perfectly complimented each other. Cheng Yi as Li Xiang Yi and Li Lian Hua is serious but cute and can be humorous. 

Mysterious Lotus Casebook concert
Xiao Shunyao, Cheng Yi, and Joseph Zeng

Joseph Zeng as Fang Doubing is carefree, striving to be the best in his profession as a detective in the martial arts world, but has a big heart for his friends, someone who is ready to offer support when needed. Love the way he takes care of Li Lian Hua. Joseph's sense of humor is timing.

Xiao Shunyao, with his robust physique, is just perfect for his role as Di Fei Sheng, a man who can be deadly as he strives to be the world's number one. He began as a nemesis of Li Xiang Yi but later joined Li Lianhua and Fang Doubing in pursuit of justice in the martial arts world.

The blending of their personalities is just so effective and engaging. Their bickering and teasing were some of the best parts of the Lotus Casebook. It was so fun to watch! Their charm, appeal, and strong performances made this drama memorable.

5. Awesome character development - one clear narrative presented in Mysterious Lotus Casebook is the progress of each character. And viewers can feel it. 

We witnessed how they evolved in the drama, their growth, and the positive impact of their characters. We saw how each character managed to resolve their personal issue, how they set aside their personal grievances for the common good, and how the impact of their actions changed the course of the story for the better.

6. Li Lianhua Character is a puzzle itself - Perhaps one of the most significant elements in this drama that really captivated the viewer's attention is the Li Lianhua character. 

Although we've been watching a lot of enigmatic and sluggish characters in a costume series, Li Lianhua is a bit unique, in the sense that he still looks charming despite his lethargic life and he still retains his charismatic appeal despite his clumsiness.

Cheng Yi successfully shaped Li Lianhua's character in the minds of the viewers as a man who wants to atone for his past mistakes and tries to live his present life with less regret. In a way that people can relate. So we are all rooting for him on how he would end up with. 

7. The essence of brotherhood and heroism - One of the best realizations that viewers can get after watching this drama is the essence of brotherhood and heroism. The relationship formed between the trio - Li Lianhua, Fang Doubing, and Di Fei Sheng - may not be the first in a martial arts drama but certainly, the way their characters developed in the story is one of the most interesting.

Cheng Yi, Joseph Zeng, and Xiao Shunyao managed to establish a good rapport in this drama, their brotherhood is really one of the best. The way they care for each other, the way they protect, and go on with the journey together as allies impressed me the most. 

Unlike traditional martial arts dramas where killing is the norm and where characters are honed to be emotionless and cold, in Mysterious Lotus Casebook, the three martial arts heroes exhibited all sorts of human emotions, they sometimes bicker and tease each other (something you won't see often in a classic martial arts dramas), with a timing sense of humor, making them fun to watch.

The heroism aspect is also unique, in the sense that they set aside their personal grievances and pride to work together for the common good of the community. 

They were not cold-blooded martial artists who kill without mercy, they still retained some degree of mercy to the enemies. They work together to bring peace and make personal sacrifices to attain the common goal to restore justice.

8. The wisdom and life's lesson - Mysterious Lotus Casebook has taught us so many things in life and in ourselves. When Li Xiangyi decided to give up his love for Qiao Wan Mian (Chen Duling) so that she could live the life she always wanted, it was hard to understand at first. 

It feels like - why can't they just fix things and make it work again? After all, love deserves a second chance and should be fought for. But then I realized why Li Xiangyi did it. He wanted her to be free from burden. He was dying from poison. He wanted to stay out of the jianghu. He wanted to spend his remaining days in peace.

So there are really things in life that once broken can no longer be fixed because insisting to repair it will lead to more damage. So it's better to let go and move on. It may be hard but someday things can be understood. 

Li Lianhua himself offers a lot of learning lessons in life. When he was still Li Xiangyi, he was in the prime of his youth, drivingly ambitious, stubborn, and wanting to be the best in the world. In the process, he has so many things taken for granted, including his relationship with Qiao Wan Mian. He also attracted jealousy from other martial artists, most of them wished nothing but to crash him, something that led to catastrophic consequences. 

His defeat during the East Sea battle with Di Fei Sheng kept him grounded and greatly humbled him, realizing that wanting to be the best in the world never pays off. As Li Lianhua, Li Xiangyi realized that what matters most in the world is living in peace, enjoying the simple things in life like freedom, food, sunshine, and the smoothness of country life.

In the end, both Li Lianhua and Di Fei Sheng let go of their obsessions of power and became sworn brothers together with Fang Doubing. Healing, reconciliation, forgiveness, and letting go of pride and senseless ambitions are the biggest takeaways that viewers can get from this drama.

9. The intriguing finale - This drama ended with mixed reactions from viewers. Some complained about its cliffhanger ending and others were left unsatisfied with how the finale was presented. 

Well, perhaps those who complained are so engrossed with fairytale stories that they always wanted a clear-cut happily-ever-after finale in the drama they watched.

So the ending of MLC drew a lot of discussions and intense debate from viewers as to what really happened to Li Lianhua in the end. Did he die from poison? Was it he who stood near the shoreline when Fang Doubing and Di Fei Sheng arrived? Or just an illusion?

We really don't have a clear answer to any of those presumptions. But given 

10. Cheng Yi as Li Xiang Yi and Li Lian Hua - Cheng Yi is one actor who just kept on improving year by year. Every time he is in a new drama, he always gives his best. 

In Mysterious Lotus Casebook he executed his martial arts routine pretty clean and smooth. His swordplay is just getting better but what is most impressive in this drama is how he gives a specific identity to his two roles - as Li Xiangyi, the best martial artist, and as Li Lianhua, the countryside doctor whose body has been weakened by the deadly poison.

He developed a unique mannerism for each character, even his styling so that each character has a distinct personality that will identify them. Read the profile and background of Cheng Yi.

Mysterious Lotus Casebook concert
Cheng Yi and his dance moves haha!

In other words, Mysterious Lotus Casebook, despite being a martial arts drama with a minimal romance, has a soul and a lot of heart. It has relatable emotions, emphasizing the human's desire for a meaningful life living in peace rather than martial artists who kill each other for power and greed.

In the end, whether Li Lianhua is alive or not, is beyond the scope of this drama, what the viewers gained the most is actually the way of doing things in real life. The world is vast and there's no need to be persistent when things can't no longer be fixed. Don't live in regrets. Learn to let go. Forgive. Move on. And start a new.

These are the reasons why this drama became a pop culture sensation, the relatable circumstances and human emotions, the realization, reconciliation, and spirit of brotherhood, and the charisma of the main leads, made people to embrace this drama as part of their everyday life.

Ending Explained and Review of Mysterious Lotus Casebook

Lotus House Concert

On September 16, 2023, Mysterious Lotus Casebook held a concert at Wuzhen Grand Theater in the beautiful town of Wuzhen in Zhejiang province, to thank fans for the undying support which greatly contributed to the successful run of this drama. 

Mysterious Lotus Casebook concert
Cute! Joseph Zeng and Xiao Shunyao teased Chen Duling and Cheng Yi (who played ex-lovers in MLC) during their final performance where they sang the drama's opening theme song: Above the Jianghu

It was so impressive because it's so rare that a drama will hold a concert to thank fans for the support. In fact, we could not think of any Chinese drama in recent memory that organized a concert after its run.

The cast members who performed during the event were Cheng Yi, Joseph Zeng, Xiao Shunyao, Chen Duling, Rain Wang, He Gang, and Estelle Chen. They were joined by Yan Yidan (the composer of MLC's OST) and Hu Xia, who sang one of the tracks, "A Pot of Lotus Wine".

Mysterious Lotus Casebook concert
The performers during the concert
Mysterious Lotus Casebook concert
Venue of the concert

Mysterious Lotus Casebook is the second drama this year on iQIYI that held a celebratory dinner after The Knockout, which is so far the most popular Chinese drama this year on Douban.

He Gang, who played Shan Gudao, posted several photos taken during the concert and each with his MLC co-star except Cheng Yi haha!

The post drew hilarious comments from C-Netizens why he has no photo with Cheng Yi. Comments like: Why there's no photo with you with your junior? Haven't you fixed your conflict with Li Xiangyi? 🤣

He Gang with his "son" in MLC, Joseph Zeng 

He Gang with Xiao Shunyao 

He Gang with Chen Duling 

Photo credit: He Gang weibo

Photos of the cast from the concert:

Mysterious Lotus Casebook concert
Concert stage props
Mysterious Lotus Casebook concert
Joseph Zeng and Cheng Yi reenactment during the concert
Mysterious Lotus Casebook concert
From left: Rain Wang, Estelle Chen, Chen Duling, and Joseph Zeng

Mysterious Lotus Casebook concert
Cheng Yi thanking the audience

Mysterious Lotus Casebook concert
group photos with the audience

Mysterious Lotus Casebook concert
Cheng Yi and Xiao Shunyao dramatization

Mysterious Lotus Casebook concert
final bow of the cast

Mysterious Lotus Casebook concert
Cheng Yi bowing to the audience

Mysterious Lotus Casebook concert
At the final moment of the concert

Mysterious Lotus Casebook concert
Chen Duling, Rain Wang, and Estelle Chen

Mysterious Lotus Casebook concert
Rain Wang, Estelle Chen, and Xiao Shunyao

Mysterious Lotus Casebook concert
Estelle Chen with Yan Yidan and He Gang

Mysterious Lotus Casebook concert
Estelle Chen and Joseph Zeng

Mysterious Lotus Casebook concert

Mysterious Lotus Casebook concert

Mysterious Lotus Casebook concert

Mysterious Lotus Casebook concert

Mysterious Lotus Casebook concert

Post a Comment


  1. Thanks for the review! I can't agree more with what you said. It's really rare for the wuxia drama ro center around the idea of forgiveness and understanding. If one can't hold what is dearest to him- and one never can - let it go. To me, the whole story is a lesson from Lianhua about how a noble man should leave the world. Bu then - so many viewers, so many views.