12 Highest-Rated Costume Asian Dramas in Douban, 2011-2023, To Binge-watch

Highest-rated Asian Drama Douban

So while waiting for big costume series from mainland China to air this year, here, we collated a list of Asian Dramas in the costume historical genre to binge-watch.

This top 12 list is based on the highest ranking list of all dramas in Douban, from 2011 to 2023, including series from other Asian countries watched and reviewed by Douban users. 

Criteria for this list:

  • If the drama is from China, Hongkong, and Taiwan - at least 45,000 reviewers
  • If from other Asian countries - at least 10,000 reviewers. 
Here's the list. Top 12 Highest-rated Asian costume dramas in Douban between 2011 to 2023:

12. Mysterious Lotus Casebook (2023)

  • Country: China
  • Douban rating: 8.5
  • Rated and reviewed by 644,176 users  
  • Star rating: 5 stars (45.8%)
  • Main cast: Cheng Yi, Joseph Zeng, and Xiao Shunyao
  • Number of episodes: 40
  • Original network: iQIYI
As you know by now, Mysterious Lotus Casebook is the most popular costume series from Mainland China in 2023 in Douban, cruising past 600,000 users rating the drama. This is a detective/investigative drama rather than focusing on wuxia. 

Highest-rated Asian Drama Douban
Xiao Shunyao, Cheng Yi, and Fang Doubing 

Plot Summary:

Li Xiangyi (Cheng Yi) suspected that the Jinyuan Alliance killed his senior, Shan Gudao (He Gang), and hid the body somewhere. To force the rival sect to release Shan Gudao's body, he challenged Di Fei Sheng (Xiao Shunyao), the head of Jinyuan Alliance, into a fight aboard the ship in the East Sea.

During their scuffle, Li Xiangyi was badly struck by the sword of Di Fei Sheng laced with a deadly poison secretly arranged by conspirators Jiao Li Qiao (Rain Wang) and Yun Biqui (Lu Hong), but he managed to sink the ship with him to wipe out the Jinyuan Alliance forces on board.

Days later, he was swept off to a seaside in a small fishing village and was cured by a Buddhist monk. but his health began to deteriorate due to the Bicha poison, and he was given only a few months to live. 

However, due to his unique inner power called Yangzhuman, the poison was blocked from spreading to his internal organs, making him survive. 

The story starts 10 years after the East Sea battle. Li Xiangyi now assumes the identity of a wandering doctor, Li Lianhua, living in the countryside, dragging his mobile house, called the Lotus Tower, anywhere. 

He raises a dog named Foxy Spirit and tended a radish farm to survive. But although he did not return to the martial arts world, he has one mission to fulfill - to find the dead body of his beloved senior, Shan Gudao.

But one day, he encounters Fang Doubing (Joseph Zeng), a free-spirited young man whose passion in life is to become a great martial artist. He also prides himself as the only disciple of Li Xiangyi who he met when he was still a child but could no longer remember the face. 
He becomes a detective for the Baichuan Academy, the Court of Justice in the martial arts world whose members are all from the dissolved Sigu Sect.

Li Lianhua and Fang Doubing's first encounter did not set well and they constantly bicker on almost everything. 

However, Fang Doubing realizes that Li Lianhua is witty and has a unique ability that can help him resolve strange cases in the jianghu, so he encourages him to participate in his investigation and pursuit of justice. By this time he is still unaware that Li Lianhua is his long lost master, Li Xiangyi. 

Li Lianhua later agrees in the hope of fulfilling his mission to find the dead body of Shan Gudao, and after this, he will forever leave the martial arts world and retire in a quiet place.

In one of the cases they investigated, Di Fei Sheng shows up and easily recognizes Li Lianhua as Li Xiangyi. But he notices that his old foe is suffering from poor health due to the Baicha poison.

Di Fei Sheng promises to find a cure so that they can have a duel again, a fight that would determine who among them is truly the best martial artist in the world. 

But by a strange twist of fate, the three of them later become allies, working hand in hand to fight the evils in society and uphold justice and peace in the martial arts world. 

11. Be With You (2023)

  • Country: China 
  • Douban rating: 8.6
  • Rated and reviewed by 83,516
  • Star rating: 5 (48%)
  • Main cast: Xie Xingyang, Su Mengdi, Wang Hanwen, and Pan Yuetong 
  • Number of episodes: 24
  • Original network: Mango TV
Have not watched this drama, but admittedly curious about its high rating, considering how critical Douban users are to costume series.

Highest-rated Asian Drama Douban
Be With You 

Plot Summary:

Legend has it that there are many martial arts forces hidden in Mu Yun City. Meng San Xi (Xie Xingyang), a martial arts master, is investigating the case of a friend who was murdered by an assassin organization allegedly based out in the city. 

At Mu Yun City, Meng San Xi meets three other people who share the same mission as him. But to continue their investigation, they need money. So, they opened a convenience store to make a living and also to fund their investigation.

10. Queen and I (2012)

  • Country: South Korea 
  • Douban rating: 8.6
  • Star rating: 5 (46.6%)
  • Rated and reviewed by 100,377 users 
  • Main cast:  Yoo In-na, Ji Hyun - woo, Kim Jin-woo, and Ga Deuk Hee
  • Number of episodes: 16
  • Original Network: tvN
  • This is available on iQIYI 

This is more or less a time-slip drama but in reverse, instead of a modern woman transmigrating to ancient times, a noble from the past time traveled to the future, to the modern world (Seoul), and meets a woman who looks like Queen In-hyun.

Highest-rated Asian Drama Douban

Plot Summary:

In the year 1694, Joseon Dynasty, Kim Bung-do (Ji Hyun-woo), a noble-born scholar, is the lone survivor of his family after they were massacred in a conspiracy. He supports the reinstatement of Queen In-hyun, who was deposed due to scheming by royal concubine Lady Jang.

In the year 2012, modern-day Seoul: Choi Hee-jin (Yoo In-na), an unsuccessful actress, lands her big break when she is cast as Queen In-hyun in the television drama "New Jang Heebin". Due to a mysterious talisman, Kim Bung-do time travels to 2012, where he crosses paths with Choi Hee-jin and falls in love.

9. An Ancient Love Song (2023)

  • Country: China 
  • Douban rating: 8.6
  • Rated and reviewed by 180,887 users
  • Star rating: 5 (47.1%)
  • Main cast: Guo Jian Nan and Zhang Yaqin
  • Number of Episodes: 14
  • Original Network: Bilibili
  • Complete episodes also available on dramacool 
Highest-rated Asian Drama Douban

This is highly recommended if you want to watch a short costume series that's riveting and unique. This is a time-slip drama where a modern writer transmigrated to the era of the book he was writing and met the woman who he falsely believed was cruel.

The timeline was told in reverse so there are plenty of things to discover, surprises, and shocking twists and turns as the episodes progress. A must-watch for every costume drama fanatic. 

You can watch this drama for free with English subtitles on Dramacool.

8. Sanada Maru (2016)

  • Country: Japan 
  • Douban rating: 8.7
  • Rated and reviewed by 15,684 users
  • Star rating: 5 (50.7%)
  • Main cast: Sakai Masato, Oizumi Hiroshi, Nagazawa Masami, Kusagari Masao / Takahata Junk
  • Number of episodes: 50
  • Original Network: NHK (Japan Broadcasting System
The series is named after the Sanada Maru, a fortification defended by Sanada during the Siege of Osaka in 1615. Written by Kōki Mitani, it stars Masato Sakai as the samurai, Sanada Nobushige.

The drama focuses on the history of the Sanada clan during the Sengoku period (social and political unrest period) in Japan, and in particular on Sanada Nobushige, who would go on to become one of the legendary commanders of the period.

Highest-rated Asian Drama Douban

Plot Summary:

At the end of the 16th century, Japan was in the heat of the Warring States Period. Demon King Oda Nobunaga (played by Kotaro Yoshida) assembles an army and attacks Takeda territory, which has long lost the Tiger of Kai. 

The former glory of the Takeda family is gone, and now it is dominated by powerful groups such as Oda Nobunaga, Uesugi Kagekatsu (played by Endo Kenichi), Hojo Ushimasa (played by Takashima Masanobu), and Tokugawa Ieyasu (played by Uchino Saoyang). 

To protect the Sanada family, Masayuki Sanada (played by Masao Kusakari), skillfully used his wit to survive. He trained his two sons, Gensaburo (played by Oizumi Hiroshi) and Genjiro, (played by Sakai Masato) to become samurai warriors. 

Later, Genjiro rose through desperate circumstances and became known as the most heroic figure who ever lived in the Sengoku Period.

During The Siege of Osaka, he constructed the small fortress "Sanada-maru" on the periphery of Osaka Castle. His fortress successfully repelled the much larger invading forces of Tokugawa Ieyasu.

7. Legend of South West Dance and Music

  • Country: Mainland China 
  • Douban rating: 8.7
  • Rated and reviewed by 47,016 users
  • Star rating: 5 (52.2%)
  • Main cast: Lin Gengxin and Choo Ja-hyun
  • Number of episodes: 42
  • Original Network: CCTV
This is one of the rarest Chinese costume dramas where the main female lead is Korean. This drama also follows a cross-cultural theme. Jointly produced by China and Burma to bring Burmese history to television screens across China and promote tourism across the border.

Highest-rated Asian Drama Douban

Plot Summary:

Also known as  The Legend of Dancing Prince, this drama is a Chinese-Burmese wuxia travelogue road drama. 

It is loosely based on the true account of Prince Shwenandaw, a Burmese prince who brought his renowned dance troop to the Tang Dynasty in the 9th century for diplomatic purposes. 

Through this mission, he spread the word about Buddhist scriptures and teachings in China. 

6. Mr. Sunshine (2018)

  • Country: South Korea 
  • Douban rating: 9.0
  • Rated and reviewed by 47,395 users
  • Star rating: 5 (64.4%) 
  • Main cast: Lee Byung- hun, Kim Tae - ri, Ryu Yeon- seok, and Kim Min-jung
  • Number of episodes: 24
  • Original Network: tvN

Plot Summary:

The story takes place before the Japanese annexation of South Korea in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It has a heavy focus on the Righteous Army and depicts the lives of people who fought for Joseon's freedom. 

Highest-rated Asian Drama Douban

It follows Eugene Choi (Lee Byung-hun), who was born into slavery during the Joseon Dynasty. After escaping to the United States at the time of the Shinmiyangyo (United States expedition to Korea) in 1871, he became a Marine Corps officer.

When he returns to Joseon for a mission, Eugene meets and falls in love with an aristocrat's granddaughter, Go Ae-shin (Kim Tae-ri), who is part of the Righteous Army. 

However, their love is challenged by their different classes and the presence of Kim Hui-seong (Byun Yo-han), a nobleman who was betrothed to Go Ae-shin since childhood. 

Eugene also encounters Gu Dong-mae (Yoo Yeon-seok), a ruthless samurai, and Kudo Hina (Kim Min-jung), owner of the popular "Glory Hotel". 

At the same time, he discovers a plot by the Empire of Japan to colonize Korea and soon becomes embroiled in the fight for his birth country's sovereignty.

5. Six Flying Dragons (2015)

  • Country: South Korea 
  • Douban rating: 9.1
  • Rated and reviewed by 13,481 users
  • Star rating: 5 (67.7%)
  • Main cast: Yoo Ah-in, Kim Myung-min, Shin Se-kyung, Byun Yo-han, Yoon Kyun-sang and Chun Ho-jin.
  • Number of episodes: 50
  • Original Network: SBS
Highest-rated costume Asian Drama
Six Flying Dragons

This is a well-praised Korean drama in China during its broadcast with most Douban users commending the drama's gripping storyline, acting performances, and production quality. 

Some of their comments:

"It has set a new height for Asian historical dramas"...

"I never thought that I would be able to follow Korean costume dramas one day. Every episode is a climax. The IQs of the main characters are always online which is really touching. 

"Six Flying Dragons" is one of the few historical dramas that I think is worthy of recommendation and review.

Some comments on the Internet compared "Six Flying Dragons" to "House of Cards" and "Nirvana in Fire". Whether this is true or not is a matter of opinion. For me, this show really combines the multi-layered machinations of "House of Cards" with the oriental romance of "Nirvana in Fire"...

Here's the Plot Summary:

The story tells about the foundation of the Joseon dynasty in the Korean Peninsula, and the ambitions, success, and conflicts of several real and fictional characters, with a focus on the young Lee Bang-won, who helped his father, King Tae Jo, establish the Joseon Dynasty. He would also become the third king of the Joseon Dynasty. 

During the establishment of the fledgling Joseon Dynasty, six dragons held vast powers and each fought for their political views. 

These six dragons — Prince Lee Bang Won (Yoo Ah In), Jeong Do Jeon (Kim Myung Min), Lee Seong Gye (Chun Ho Jin), Boon Yi (Shin Se Kyung), Ddang Sae (Byun Yo Han) and Moo Hyul (Yoon Kyun Sang) — fall on opposite sides of a power struggle between those who want a country ruled by ministers and those who want absolute power.

4. The Qin Empire II: Alliance (2013)

  • Country: China 
  • Douban rating: 9.3
  • Rated and reviewed by 72,245 
  • Star rating: 5 (73.7%)
  • Main cast: Fu Dalong, Ning Jing, Yu Entai, Fu Miao, andYang Xinming 
  • Number of episodes: 51
  • Original Network: CCTV
  • Available on Netflix as Qin Alliance

The first season was aired in 2009 followed by three sequels: The Qin Empire II: Alliance (2013), The Qin Empire III (2017), and The Qin Empire IV (2019), all based on the novel by Sun Haohui. 

Highest-rated costume Asian Drama
Qin Empire 2: Alliance 

Plot Summary from Douban:

The countries of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty went through hundreds of years of conquests, annexations, and conquests, one was declining and the other was growing. 

By the middle of the Warring States Period, the seven kingdoms were unified. The Qin State, which was once nearly destroyed, rose rapidly under Shang Yang's reforms and became the most important force in the northwest wilderness. 

Under the pressure of conservative forces, the young King Huiwen of Qin Yingsi (played by Fu Dalong) was forced to split Shang Yang, but he also suppressed the conservatives with a negative attitude. 

The ambitious King Qin Huiwen, the Prime Minister of Qi and Wei, stepped onto the international stage in an extremely dangerous situation. 

At the same time, he eradicated the domestic opposition forces headed by Qianlong, paving the way for domination of the world. 

To curb the eastward advance of his powerful neighbor, King Hui of Wei (played by Li Liqun), whose national power was declining, used Su Qin's theory of the unification of the six kingdoms to isolate Qin. 

As Qin continues to encroach on its surrounding areas, it also uses Zhang Yi (played by Yu Entai) to propose Lianheng countermeasures. Heroes and wise men competed on the stage, and the history of the Warring States Period entered the most turbulent era.

3. JIN Season 2 (2011)

  • Country: Japan 
  • Douban rating: 9.4
  • Rated and reviewed by 33,122 
  • Star rating: 5 (76.6%)
  • Main cast: Takao Osawa / Haruka Ayase / Miki Nakatani / Sayou Uchino / Keisuke Koide
  • Number of episodes: 11
  • Original Network: TBS (Japan)

Based on the Japanese manga series, Jin, written by Motoka Murakami, this drama was one of the most popular Japanese dramas during its broadcast in 2011 and won many major awards in Japan.

Douban users were also impressed with its unique plot, riveting screenplay and acting performances. It was adapted into a K-drama in 2012, Time Slip Dr. Jin starring Song Seung Heon as Dr. Jin and Park Min-young as Yoo Mina.

Highest-rated costume Asian Drama
JIN season 2

Plot Summary: To understand the background of this drama better, here's the plot summary of season 1, which was aired in 2009.

The story follows a modern man, a brain surgeon named Jin Minakata (Takao Osawa) who has spent the last two years in anguish, as his fiancee, Miki (Miki Nakatani), herself a doctor, lies in a vegetative state after an operation he performed. 

One day, he is knocked unconscious by a panicking patient at the hospital and awakens to find himself transported back in ancient time to the Edo period (Togukawa period in the 11th century when Japan was under the rule of Togukawa Shogunate). 

Jin is soon attacked by a samurai, but he escapes with the help of a man named Kyōtarō Tachibana (Keisuke Koide) who suffers a serious injury to the head while trying to protect Jin.

Jin manages to save the man's life despite a lack of proper medical equipment (it's a different century afterall). Because of that, Kyōtarō's sister, Saki (Haruka Ayase) begins taking an interest in Jin. She becomes his assistant. But Jin is determined to find a way to get back to the present time.

Season 2

Still trapped in ancient Japan, Jin and Saki develop a sweet confectionery that contains medicine for Saki's mother who has a severe case of beriberi.

But one day, Ryoma Sakamoto (Masaaki Uchino) asks Jin to care for Kaishuu Katsu's mentor, Shozan Sakuma (Masachika Ichimura). 

Shōzan is in a critical state after being attacked by a group of samurai warriors. However, she survives because of Jin's fervent treatment. 

As a troubled Jin worries that his treatments may change the course of history and he might never go back to his world in modern times, Sakuma tells him, she's also from the "present".

After the Forbidden Gate Incident, Kyoto was devastated, and Jin, who was originally left to save people, was brought there by the samurai warriors to treat Saigo Takamori. 

Experiencing the sudden and dramatic changes in the situation in Japan at the end of the Tokugawa period, Jin gained a new understanding of his significance to this era. 

In the not-too-distant future, he will re-encounter Miki who is looking for a new life, and the mysteries surrounding them in the first part will also be answered one by one.

2. Empresses in the Palace (2011):

  • Country: China 
  • Douban rating: 9.4 
  • Rated and reviewed by 746,018 users
  • Star rating: 5 (74.9%)
  • Main cast: Sun Li, Chen Jianbin, Cai Shaofen, Li Dongxue / Jiang Xin
  • Number of episodes: 76
  • Original Network: Beijing TV

Also known as The Legend of Concubine Zhen Huan, this drama explores the complicated world of the imperial harem during the reign of the Yongzheng emperor in the Qing dynasty period. This is a prequel to the 2018 drama, Ruyi's Royal Love in the Palace.

Highest-rated costume Asian Drama
Empresses in the Palace 

Plot Summary: 

The Yongzheng emperor (Chen Jianbin) was deeply in love with his first wife, Empress Chunyuan, but the Empress tragically died and the position went to her younger sister, Empress Yixiu (Ada Choi). 

The Empress Dowager organizes a selection to bring new members of the Imperial Harem. Despite not wanting to be selected, Zhen Huan (Sun Li) is forced to join the selection and ends up being chosen due to her resemblance to the late Empress Chunyuan. 

She joins the Imperial Harem alongside her childhood best friend Meizhuang Shen (Lan Xi), and low-born lady Lingrong An (Tao Xinran).

Huan attempts to avoid the Imperial Harem's politics but ultimately falls in love with the Yongzheng Emperor, causing various schemes to be plotted against her. 

1. Nirvana in Fire (2015)

  • Country: China 
  • Douban rating: 9.4
  • Rated and reviewed by 825,148 users
  • Star rating: 5 (77.3%)
  • Main cast: Hu Ge, Liu Tao, Wang Kai, Victor Huang
  • Number of episodes: 54
  • Original network: Dragon TV, Beijing TV
  • Available on iQIYI and Youtube
One of China's classic and most successful costume dramas, it gained a cult following domestically and internationally. 

Nirvana in Fire was both a commercial and critical success, reaping various awards from China's major award-giving bodies.

Princess Mu Nihuang (played by Liu Tao) is not a major character in this drama. She is Lin Shu/Mei Changshu's love interest, but she is not part of the whole story. 

Nirvana in Fire season 1 is not a romance-centric drama, the story focuses on palace intrigues, scheming, and power struggle. 

Ding Yongdai plays the Emperor while Wu Lei plays Fei Liu, the childish but highly-skilled bodyguard of Mei Changsu. 

Highest-rated costume Asian Drama
Nirvana in Fire (2015)

Plot Summary:

In 6th-century China, there was a war between feudal Northern Wei and Southern Liang dynasties. The Liang commander-general, Lin Xie, his 19-year-old son Lin Shu (played by Zhang Zhehan), and the Chiyan Army defeated the Wei forces. 

However, Lin Xie was betrayed and they were massacred under the Emperor's orders. Unknown to the king, the Chiyan was framed by political rivals, who claimed that they were conspiring a rebellion with the then-crown prince, Prince Qi. 

As a result, Prince Qi and members of the Lin manor were unjustly executed. Qi's mother, Consort Chen, and Lin Shu's mother who was the sister of the king, committed suicide.

Lin Shu survived the massacre but he was struck by the Poison of the Bitter Flame. To save his life, the master of Langya Hall, Lin Chen, gave him a treatment that ultimately led to Lin Shu's altered appearance and weakened state. 

For the next twelve years, he establishes the Jiang Zuo Alliance and becomes chief of the pugilist world as Mei Changsu (Hu Ge). 

He returns to the capital during the fight for the throne between Prince Yu (Victor Huang) and Prince Xian (Gao Xin). He uses this opportunity to restore his family's innocence as well as secretly help his best friend and cousin, the unfavored Prince Jing (Wang Kai), become Emperor.

Under the name Su Zhe, Lin Shu becomes a strategist, who supports Prince Yu on the surface. He helps him take down the Crown Prince and his powerful ally, Marquess Xie Yu (Liu Yijun). 

While also investigating Xie Yu, Mei Changsu discovers new details in the Chiyan conspiracy. He realizes that Xia Jiang (Wang Yong Quan), head of the Xuan Jing Bureau, was the instigator who framed Prince Qi and the Chiyan Army so that Prince Qi could not dissolve the Xuan Jing Bureau.

After the Crown Prince falls from grace, Prince Yu and his own strategist, Qin Banruo, become suspicious of Mei Changsu after they see Prince Jing's sudden rise to power. 

Although he is advised to stop advancing for the throne, Prince Yu forms an alliance with Xia Jiang, who agrees to help him to prevent the Chiyan case from being re-investigated under Prince Jing, for fear that the prince would uncover Xia's lies. 

Despite their plan to use the capture of Wei Zheng, former Lieutenant of Chiyan Army under Lin Shu, to create bad blood between Prince Jing and his father, the plan backfires, with Xia Jiang arrested and his Bureau seized and searched. 

Prince Yu's previous crimes are also revealed, causing him to be demoted and put under house arrest. Qin Banruo later persuades him to hold a rebellion while his father is away at the Spring Hunt with Prince Jing and Mei Changsu.

Despite arriving with a more powerful army compared to the small number of soldiers stationed at the Hunt, Prince Yu fails. He later commits suicide in prison. 

Meanwhile, Xia Jiang escapes prison during the rebellion attempt and deduces that Mei Changsu is Lin Shu. 

He attempts to regain the Emperor's trust by uncovering Mei's identity and accusing Prince Jing of conspiring with the strategist as the reason for the prince's quick rise in power. 

Although the Emperor imprisons Xia Jiang again, he attempts to kill Mei Changsu to prevent further messes but is stopped by Prince Jing.

Together, Prince Jing and Mei Changsu plan for the reopening of the Chiyan case. At the Emperor's birthday celebration, the Prince has Grand Princess Liyang, the wife of Xie Yu, bring up the case in front of the emperor with evidence from Xie Yu's confession. 

Although angered by the sudden accusation of his mistakes, the Emperor is rendered powerless and finally agrees to reopen the case. After investigating, he pronounces Prince Qi, Lin Xie, Lin Shu, and the entire Chiyan army innocent.

After accomplishing his mission, Mei Changsu hears news of Northern Wei forces taking advantage of the political unrest by invading Da Liang. 

He resolves to take up arms to drive off the Southern forces (Da Yu), as that is what Lin Shu would have done. 

Mei takes Lin Chen's medication, which gives him strength for three months, so he can lead Liang's forces to defeat the enemy. He ultimately does not return to the capital. Several years later, Prince Jing became the new Emperor. 

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