7 Chinese TV Shows to Binge Watch and Improve Your Mandarin
In our free time at home, many of us are binge-watching our favorite TV shows and movies, to relax and get away from all of the chaos going on right now.
Last time, we shared the top songs we recommend for learning Mandarin, to get your spirits up and learn some Chinese through song!
This time, we’re rolling out the TV edition, with the top 7 binge-worthy Chinese language TV shows! Most of these shows can also appeal to those in the high beginner range and up (of course English or Chinese subs will help!)
Generally speaking, these shows used very common, colloquial language that you’ll find yourself using all the time in Chinese! Plus, watching TV shows is a SUPER fun way to improve your listening skills, adopt new words and phrases to add to your spoken Chinese, and to learn more about different aspects of Chinese culture.
Here are our top 7 TV shows, across several different genres. You’re bound to find at least one that suits your taste!
What’s even better is that ALL of the shows on our list can be found easily on Youtube - watch on your phone, tablet, laptop, or pull it up on your TV for the best experience!
#1 - Comedy Series:
爱情公寓 (ài qíng gōng yù) - iPartment
This show is hands down one of the most popular sitcoms in China, and is often referred to as the Chinese version of the popular American sitcom “Friends”.
爱情公寓 (ài qíng gōng yù) literally translates to “Love Apartment”, and follows a group of 20-something friends that are neighbors and hangout a lot together.
This is one of the first Chinese shows to show an urban, more Western way of life, incorporating one-night-stands, drinking contests, and other more Western concepts into the plot lines.
The language used is quite colloquial, and it’s a great show to start off with.
Keep in mind, this is a sitcom, with lots of jokes and cultural references included. Don’t feel bad if you don’t understand many of the jokes! Just think of how many cultural jokes appear in Friends - as a non-native speaker, if you understand even a couple references in this kind of show, that’s already really great!
Get started on the first episode on Youtube here:
#2 - Romantic Series:
我可能不会爱你 (wǒ kě néng bú huì ài nǐ) - In Time With You
Hands down, this is one of the best romantic dramas in Chinese (and my personal favorite!).
The title literally means “I Probably Don’t Love You”. This Taiwanese series tells the story of the main character Cheng You Qing battling the passing of time and hitting the age of 30, while she struggles to find the right partner to settle down with.
Another major character is Li Da Ren, her male best friend from high school. This series is full of ups and downs, and really captivates you throughout, until the very end.
This series also uses super colloquial Chinese, and you’ll find your listening and speaking skills improving the more you watch!
Plus, the songs in this drama are REALLY beautiful and catchy - a great bonus! (Don’t watch the music video though unless you want somewhat of a spoiler!)
Watch the first episode here:
#3 - Dramatic Series:
他来了，请闭眼 (tā lái le, qǐng bì yǎn) - Love Me, If You Dare
This is a Chinese TV show from 2015, and has received really high ratings. The Chinese name literally translates to “When He Comes, Close Your Eyes” - just from the title, it sounds pretty eerie!
The main character, Simon, is a psychologist who returns to China from abroad after a close call with a serial killer, and with his assistant, they work to solve puzzling, violent criminal cases.
If you enjoy dramatic TV shows, this is right up your alley!
Plus, the language used overall has a good deal of colloquialisms (though there’s technical language in there too).
Get started with Episode 1 of this series here:
#4 - Ancient Drama:
将夜 (jiāng yè) - Ever Night
If you’re a fan of action, adventure, and historical dramas, you’ll really enjoy this drama!
This 2018 Chinese series received really great ratings. The story is set in the Tang Dynasty, and follows a revengeful young man who seeks justice. His family was massacred when he was young, but he was able to escape and survive on his own.
The story gets even more interesting as it unwinds.
Keep in mind though, that as with most ancient dramas, a large portion of the language used is, well, ancient. So don’t worry too much if you’re having trouble following the Chinese - this one might be best to stick to English subs!
Watch the first episode of this drama here:
#5 - Musical Talent Show:
中国好声音 (zhōng guó hǎo shēng yīn) - Sing! China/The Voice of China
For all you music lovers out there, this show will be right up your alley! This series, originally known as “The Voice of China”, and recently rebranded as “Sing! China”, is more or less the equivalent of the popular franchise TV series across the world, “The Voice”.
The name 中国好声音 (zhōng guó hǎo shēng yīn) literally means “The Good Voice of China”.
On the show, you’ll see tons of super talented contestants battle it out to see who has the best voice in China!
What’s more, most of the song lyrics and language used throughout the show is quite conversational, so you’ll also be adding some new language to your belt! You might even find a few new Chinese songs that you like!
Here is the first episode of the most recent season, from 2019:
#6 - Dating Show:
非诚勿扰 (fēi chéng wù rǎo) - If You Are the One
This show is hands down the most popular dating game show in China, and one of the highest rated shows for Jiangsu TV. The title literally means “Not Sincere, Don’t Disturb”.
It’s important to note that in Chinese culture, blind dates - 相亲 (xiāng qīn) and dating are quite important for many 20- and 30-somethings. Not to mention the cultural importance placed on getting married - 结婚 (jié hūn), by that age.
Needless to say, this show is a great way to learn more about the Chinese dating culture, and pick up some new language while you’re at it!
As with many reality TV shows, the show uses a good amount of colloquial language, so it’s a great way to study as well!
Check out one of the more recent episodes, from 2020, here:
#7 - Variety TV Show:奔跑吧兄弟/奔跑吧 (bēn pǎo ba xiōng dì/bēn pǎo ba) - Running Man China/Keep Running
This show is a wildly popular variety show in China, based off of the popular original Korean variety show “Running Man”. The show’s title was rebranded, and has been shortened to 奔跑吧 (bēn pǎo ba) more recently.
The basic idea is during the show the MCs and special guests have to complete missions in order to win a race.
This is definitely an entertaining show, and does use a decent amount of colloquial Chinese!
Watch one of the more recent episodes from this year here:
If you’re just getting started learning Chinese and pinyin, it’s best to have a basic understanding to get the most out of the above TV shows.
The first FULL level of our Beginner Conversational Course is FREE right now - that’s over 40 lesson videos!
Start with Lesson 1, "Chinese is Easier Than You Think" here:
Let us know in the comments below: What is YOUR favorite Chinese TV show?