Popular C-Drama in 2023 Overseas. See How They Performed Domestically

For filmmakers and producers, it's good to conduct a comparative study on how domestic drama viewers and international drama viewers differ in opinion and judgment on a particular series to get an idea of what type of drama projects to produce in the future.

As we all know, domestic fans have a different take on which drama hits the mark and which one messes up in terms of production quality, acting performances, and technical merits. 

Domestic fans are particular about the overall quality of the drama and which one best represents their culture while overseas fans are more particular about the main leads who tickle their fantasies. 

This is why there are series that become successful internationally but flopped at home. This scenario feels like our own household. We know our siblings better than the outsiders know them. 

So here, we gathered this year's most popular C-drama overseas and see how these series performed domestically. We get their Douban score to find out how domestic fans viewed these series.

You see, Douban is China's most influential rating platform where the real pulse of domestic drama viewers is often reflected. In most cases, the drama rating is accurate, for instance, most of its highest-rated series also earned recognition and awards both overseas and within China.

This year's highest-rated series in Douban is The Long Season (9.4), which is also this year's most-awarded C-drama, both abroad and domestically.

Douban's rating system is also one of the most complex in the industry as it has many factors affecting the score - the number of reviewers, the star rating they give, and the percentage of reviewers on each star rating classification. 

  • 9.0 plus Excellent
  • 8.0 - 8.9 Very Good
  • 7.0 - 7.9 Good
  • 6.0 - 6.9 Average
  • 5.9 - 5.5 Below average
  • 5.0 - 5.4 Poor
  • 4.0 - 4.9 Very poor
  • 3.0 below - Worst

Related article: 

Highest-rated C-Drama in Douban in 2023 Overall

The following dramas are the most popular this year overseas because these are top-billed by China's popular stars, so let's see how domestic fans responded.

Ancient/Costume Genre:

1. Mysterious Lotus Casebook (iQIYI) - Rating: 8.5 

Main cast: Cheng Yi, Joseph Zeng, and Xiao Shunyao. This is the only Chinese series this year where domestic viewers and international viewers are on equal footing. This drama enjoys popularity both domestically and internationally. 

MLC's Douban score reflects a very good rating from more than 500,000 reviewers. It has a dominant 5-star rating also, which means this drama has been warmly received at home.

2. Lost You Forever (Tencent) - Rating: 7.8 

Main cast: Yang Zi, Zhang Wanyi, Deng Wei, Tan Jianci. With a score of 7.8 from more than 300, 000 reviewers, it means Lost You Forever received mixed reactions from domestic fans despite the hype. 

Yang Zi is one of China's biggest liuliang stars together with Yang Mi, Wang Yibo, Xiao Zhan, Dilraba Dilmurat, Yang Yang, and Zhao Liying. Except for Yang Mi and Zhao Liying, none of these liuliang stars ever had a drama scoring 8.0+ in Douban.

3. The Starry Love (Youku) - Rating: 7.3

Main cast: Chen Xingxu, Li Landy, He Xuan Lin, and Luke Chen. This fantasy drama is visually appealing - good aesthetics and CGIs. 

The interesting dynamics of the four main leads added entertainment value to the whole drama, attracting more viewers during its broadcast. It was helmed by Zhu Ruibin, known for directing successful costume dramas such as  Ashes of Love and The Long Ballad. 

4. Back From The Brink (Youku) - Rating: 7.2

Main cast: Neo Hou, Zhou Ye, and Riley Wang. This is one of the surprising costume c-drama hits this year, giving Neo Hou, Zhou Ye, and Riley Wang an overnight popularity. 

They don't have large fan bases both domestically and internationally, but somehow they managed to attract attention from drama viewers due to their charismatic performances. The interesting storyline, mixing humor and fantasy made it even more appealing. 

5. Story of Kunning Palace (iQIYI) - Rating: 6.7

Main cast: Bai Lu and Zhang Linghe. One of the highly anticipated costume series this year. The postponement of its release added more excitement. 

However, despite the hype and its popularity overseas, Story of Kunning Palace failed to capture the interest of China's literati and ended the broadcast with a dwindling Douban score. Domestic viewers criticized its production value and Bai Lu's always-tired demeanor. 

6. Romance on the Farm (iQIYI) - Rating: 6.6

Main cast: Joseph Zeng and Tian Xiwei. Surprisingly, this drama managed to stir drama fans' attention. The fresh storyline and the cute chemistry between the two main leads became the biggest draws of this drama. Joseph Zeng and Tian Xiwei are fun to watch and their good acting skills keep viewers hooked to the story.

7. Destined (iQIYI)  - Rating: 6.5

Main cast: Bai Jingting and Song Yi. Destined started out well. Bai Jing Ting's natural humor made the first half of this drama super interesting. 

Plus the fact that this drama follows the story of two individuals with contrasting behaviors who got married accidentally, and then slowly developed feelings for each other, added some dramatic appeal.

However, with a score of 6.5 from more than 150,000 reviewers, it seems Destined failed to sustain the momentum of impressing domestic fans.

8. Wonderland of Love (Tencent) - Rating: 6.5

Main cast: Jing Tian and Xu Kai. I began watching this drama during its broadcast and looked decent. Despite my misgivings about Xu Kai's acting skills, he actually managed to pull in some energy to perform his character better than in his previous costume series.

Nonetheless, domestic fans are still unimpressed with his performance and the tempo of the drama relied on the acting prowess of Jing Tian.

9. The Longest Promise (Tencent) - Rating: 6.3

Main cast: Xiao Zhan and Ren Min. This is one of Tencent's biggest hits this year, topping all the popularity index contests on every online platform. 

Not surprising, considering how popular Xiao Zhan is as an actor. He is one of China's biggest liuliang stars who has a legion of fans ready to fight anyone who comes in Xiao Zhan's way. 

They are always giving their all when it comes to supporting him so no wonder this drama has a meteoric rise in popularity. Unfortunately, it did not set well with domestic fans.

Most of the disappointment of domestic fans comes from the script. In the source novel, the story is told from the point of view of the female lead, in fact, the original novel is titled Zhu Yan. 

However, the drama adaptation changed the direction of the story and made Shi Ying (Xiao Zhan) the main protagonist instead of Zhu Yan (Ren Min) which alienated domestic viewers.

They also commented that Xiao Zhan and Ren Min lacked chemistry and that Ren Min's acting was far better than Xiao Zhan's. The rating of 6.3 is a bit low for a big-budgeted drama starred by an overwhelmingly popular star.

9. Love You Seven Times (iQIYI)- Rating: 6.2

Main cast: Ding Yuxi and Yang Chao Yue. Despite the popularity of these two idol stars, Love You Seven Times failed to impress domestic viewers. The criticism targeted Yang Chao Yue's poor acting skills.

10. My Journey To You (iQIYI) - Rating: 6.1

Main cast: Esther Yu and Zhang Linghe. This drama was popular overseas during its entire broadcast, however failed to captivate domestic fans. It also failed to achieve 10,000 viewership heat index on iQIYI. 

Most domestic viewers criticized how this drama had overused the slow-motion technique, applying it in almost all fighting scenes especially the fight scenes of Esther Yu, giving the notion that she was just using a double.

They also complained about the lack of clear plot development and that the second male and female leads were given more screen time than the main leads.

Domestic fans also heavily criticized the Japanese elements used in the film - the dark aesthetics, the ninja-type fight scenes, etcetera. Chinese people are always critical of the technical merits of the film especially if it glorifies other nations' cultures. 

11. Scent of Time (Youku) - Rating: 6.1

Main cast: Zhou Ye and Wang Xing Yue. This drama began its broadcast with criticism and ended its broadcast with criticism from domestic fans who were disappointed with Zhou Ye's stiff portrayal as if she was just forced to act in the drama.

Zhou Ye's performance in Scent of Time was in great contrast to her flamboyant and bubbly performance in Back from the Brink.

The script is not super bad, but the idea of a whole drama being told through a dream of the protagonist is viewed in a bad taste. Drama viewers always feel betrayed by this kind of narrative, making Scent of Time less than appealing to domestic fans. 

12. The Princess and The Werewolf (Youku) - Rating: 6.1

Main cast: Chen Zheyuan and Wu Xuanyi

Some comments from domestic fans centered on the draggy plot and the slow pacing. Although Wu Xuanyi showed some grit in her performance, it was not enough to captivate the attention of domestic fans. Unlike Go Princess Go (season 1), The Princess and The Werewolf failed to gather strong followers for this drama in the domestic market.

13. Legend of Anle (Youku) - Rating: 5.8

Main cast: Dilraba Dilmurat, Gong Jun, and Liu Yuning.  The most criticized drama of Dilraba due to a number of reasons - poor CGI, too much filter, poor fight scene choreography, stupid plot development, and a weak main male lead character progress. 

Most domestic viewers criticized Dilraba's lack of acting improvement despite being already a veteran in the industry. They also criticized the scriptwriters for altering the plot from the source novel. 

According to them, in the source novel, Ren Anle was a heroine and an empowered woman but in the drama adaptation they made Ren Anle a silly and stupid flirt, and the Crown Prince, a weak and indecisive man.

14. Till The End of The Moon (Youku) - Rating: 5.6

Main cast: Bai Lu and Luo Yunxi. Just like other series starring liuliang C-drama stars, Till the End of the Moon was ultra popular overseas but bombed at home. 

Most of Douban's reviewers' comments centered on the crazy plot development which showed no progress at all and that this drama was poorly written.

15. Tiger and Crane (iQIYI) - Rating: 5.4

Main cast: Jiang Long, Zhang Linghe, Wang Yuwen, Ye Qing, He Lan Dou, and Chen Youwei. Have not watched this drama so not sure why such a low rating. Even among overseas fans, this drama has a poor response.

Some of the reactions of domestic fans centered on the "weird plot" development and stupid character building where everyone is capable of doing annoying things.

16. Beauty of Resilience (iQIYI)- Rating: 5.2

Main cast: Ju Jingyi and Guo Junchen. Okay, I watched this drama until the end. Actually, the story started out so well. I was deeply interested in the premise of "hidden identity", a male lead hunting down the female lead premise. However, this drama became so draggy as episodes went on perhaps because the story peaked too early.

I was also irritated with Ju Jingyi's lack of variation in her acting and her inability to give a distinct identity to her characters in three different timelines. 

This drama also has an inconceivable plot development with unclear direction. The only spark that saved this drama was Guo Junchen's acting performance. No wonder he was awarded as one of the Enterprising Actors of the Year during iQIYI's Screaming Night Awards 2023 and the 2nd Weibo TV and Internet Video Summit.

17. Divine Destiny (iQIYI) - Rating: 5.1

Main cast: Angelababy and Ma Tianyu. Domestic fans give this drama bad reviews due to repetitive plot points and inconsistent character developments, especially the main leads. I also watched the first 10 episodes of this drama but got bored somewhere. 

18. The Journey of Chongzi (Tencent) - Rating: 4.8

Main cast: Jeremy Tsui and Yang Chao Yue. Needless to say, domestic fans were not impressed with this drama. Their reasons varied from dumb character development to Yang Chao Yue's annoying acting. And the script was badly written.

19. Snow Eagle Lord (Tencent) - Rating: 4.5

Main cast: Xu Kai and Gulinazha. We all know how popular Xu Kai is overseas but he still cannot impress domestic fans with his acting. This drama was badly criticized in China for its poor script progress and stupid narrative.

20. Wrong Carriage Right Groom (Youku) - Rating: 4.2

Main cast: Ao Ruipeng and Tian Xiwei. Based on the comments in Douban, some Chinese reviewers were disappointed with the way the script was written.

They said this drama did not live up to the expectations due to a badly written script. They also said this version was ugly. It appears that this drama was a remake of the 2001 C-drama of the same name starring Huang Yi and Nie Yuan.

Modern Genre:

1. The Heart (Tencent) - Rating: 8.4

Main cast: Mark Chao, Jin Shijia, and Mao Xiaotong. This is the Chinese version of the Korean drama, New Heart (2007). 

Drama fans were impressed with the realistic story as it focuses on the medical aspect of the drama including the challenges that doctors face every day both on the professional and private aspects.

2. Nothing But You (Tencent) - Rating: 8.2

Main cast: Wu Lei and Zhou Yutong. Wu Lei truly delivers in this drama. He has an in-depth interpretation of his character and you will enjoy watching his performance. 

This is his first modern romance drama as the main male lead and you could see how he finally outgrew his teenage image. You could feel the authenticity of his acting and the way he immersed into his role. 

3. Never Give Up (Mango TV) - Rating: 7.9

Main cast: Dylan Wang and Chen Yukee. This is an office drama and well received in China. People were impressed with the plot development. 

4. The Youth Memories (Tencent) - Rating: 7.5

Main cast: Xiao Zhan and Li Qin. Xiao Zhan has a better performance in this drama than any of the modern dramas he starred in. You could feel how he has improved in his acting. Li Qin was equally fascinating in this drama. In fact, she and Xiao Zhan have a firepower chemistry here.

5. Rising with the Wind (iQIYI) - Rating: 7.3

Main cast: Gong Jun and Elaine Zhong. Based on its Douban score, it's a pretty decent response from domestic fans. However, Gong Jun's acting can still be compared to those neophytes in the industry. And it was Elaine Zhong who carried the drama.

6. Sunshine by My Side (Tencent/iQiyi) - Rating: 7.2

Main cast: Xiao Zhan and Bai Baihe. The main leads have an almost 10 years age gap but they also performed characters with the same age gap so I guess thr pairing is okay. However, the response of domestic viewers was a bit lukewarm. 

7. Bright Eyes in the Dark (iQiyi) - Rating: 7.2

Main Cast: Johnny Huang and Zhang Jingyi. Based on Douban users' comments, this drama is a better version of all the firefighter series as it accurately shows off real scenario of disasters where firefighters in China put their lives at risk.

Johnny Huang's portrayal was also praised as one of the best in essaying the role of men in uniform.

8. The Forbidden Flower (Tencent) - Rating: 6.8

Main Cast: Jerry Yan and Xu Ruohan. Watching Jerry Yan still playing a character in the idol romance genre is a bit uncomfortable because it means he has not progressed in his acting career.

It seems he still cannot outlive his Meteor Garden image and boy, that was 20 years ago! Domestic viewers can't accept the fact that Dao Mingsi is strapped in the idol genre 😄

9. Hidden Love (Youku) - Rating: 6.7

Main cast: Zhao Lusi and Chen Zheyuan. This is ultra popular overseas with international fans swooning hard to the syrupy love story but unfortunately didn't impress domestic fans.

With just a score of 6.7, it's way below expectations. Zhao Lusi still attracts angst and criticism from Domestic fans no matter which drama she starred in.

10. Prosecution Elite (Tencent) - Rating: 6.6

Main cast: Dilraba Dilmurat and Tong Da Wei. This is one of the lowest-rated legal series in China. Cheng Yi's Draw The Line (2022), also a legal drama, got a score of 7.3.

Domestic viewers chided Dilraba's dry acting in Prosecution Elite, and that it feels like she's not ready to take a role in more serious acting projects. 

11. Love is Panacea (Youku) - Rating: 5.8

Main cast: Luo Yunxi and Zhang Ruonan. Domestic fans commented that this drama just recycled the same plot of a modern drama and offers nothing new. 

12. South Wind Knows (Youku) - Rating: 5.7

Main cast: Cheng Yi and Zhang Yuxi. This is the only modern romance series that Cheng Yi did in his entire acting career. He delivered well in this drama. He portrayed his role extremely well.

The criticism was on the uninteresting script and the performance of Zhang Yuxi, some domestic fans begged Cheng Yi's management to never pair him again with Zhang Yuxi as their on-screen pairing is not very effective. 

13. Twilight - Rating: 5.3

Main cast: Angelababy and Ren Jialun. As always, domestic fans hated Angelababy's acting and whatever she does on screen, she is always ridiculed at home. 

14. Only For Love (Hunan/Mango TV) - Rating: 4.3

Main cast: Bai Lu and Dylan Wang. This drama is one of the classic examples of being highly popular overseas but badly criticized at home.

Domestic viewers chided Dylan Wang's forced acting as a top executive and that he is still not seasoned enough to play the role of a CEO in the drama. 

Most comments in Douban targeted the terrible plot development and the way the characters are written which didn't suit well to their culture. 

15. Fireworks of My Heart (Mango TV) - Rating: 2.8

Main cast: Yang Yang and Wang Churan. This is the lowest-rated series in Douban this year and Yang Yang's poorly rated drama ever.

The criticism from domestic fans about this drama is so terrible. Everything was criticized, from Yang Yang and Wang Churan's poor acting to the show's disrespectful narrative about China's firefighters.

Read related article: 

30 Highest-Rated C-drama in 2023, including the Lowest-Rated

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