Since China appears to be "taking over the world" as a new super power, I thought that I might as well check out out their entertainment outside the Bruce Lee and Jet Li Kung Fu movies. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised at quality of some of these shows and so below are my top picks for dramas from China.
1. Three Kingdoms
This 95 episode series, set in the Three Kingdoms (late Han) era of China and is based on a historical novel of the same name. It follows the rise and fall of various competing "warlords" and generals but focuses mainly on Cao Cao, Liu Bei, and Sima Yi.
Three Kingdoms boasts a great combination of political intrigue and epic battles (with a fair amount of mano e mano combat) which apart from anything else gives you a sense of how life (in a certain respect) must have been like. To this end, Ni Dahong's portrayal of Sima Yi gives us some insight as to what one would have to do in order to thrive in such an environment.
The only thing that really annoyed me, was the constant spitting up blood, notwithstanding the fact that I understand its place in Chinese theatrical traditions.
2. Advisor's Alliance/Growling Tiger Roaring Dragon
This two part series follows the life of Sima Yi and his political battles, which generally seemed to be a matter of life or death.
In the first part of the series, there isn't much combat action, rather it concerns the political intrigue and struggles of the court of the last Han emperor and the succeeding Cao Wei regime. The lack of action, quite surprisingly does not take away from the series. One of the things that separates this show from the others on this list, is that it shows, to a certain extent, what role women played in China's political affairs. This is against the backdrop that women were generally prohibited from participating directly in politics.
3. The great revival
This series is set during the end China's Spring and Autumn Period and follows the life and struggles of the legendary king of the Kingdom of Yue, King Goujian (whose sword still survives completely intact). My overall impression of The Great Revival is that the battle scenes could have done with some work, but irregardless, it was a good show that had some truly memorable scenes. Even where the episode was for the most part, quite boring, there was still something that caused me to want to forge ahead. That aside, I can positively say that it also left me thinking, "thank goodness I wasn't born back then".