Historical political dramas, focus on power and strategy. In Chinese historical political dramas, the protagonists are usually in changing dynasties, with tense plots and complex character conflicts that portray the dark rivalry between different forces and keep the audience engrossed in the drama.
If you ask what is the attraction of historical political dramas? Probably it can meet the aesthetic experience and expectations of the audience in many ways. The overall story is set in ancient times, and most of the settings are related to the imperial court, which satisfies the public's desire to pry into the royal family. The storyline, full of logical reasoning and details, also makes the audience constantly look forward to the direction of the plot.
There are three kinds of themes in Chinese historical dramas that show the means of power and strategies.
The first is imperial dramas, in which the plot focuses on the struggle for power among emperors, ministers, and heirs, mainly highlighting the politics of strategists, such as "Kang Xi Dynasty" and "Ming Dynasty in 1566", etc, basically takes history as the main vein and is rated by netizens as the peak of the power and strategies drama.
The second kind is the political drama/harem drama in fictional history, such as "Nirvana in Fire" in 2015, which changed the view of heroism and told a colorful story in the fictional history, opening a new chapter of power and strategies drama.
The third type is the palace drama, in which the power struggle in the harem is also called "palace struggle," such as "Beauty's Rival in Palace," "Empresses in the Palace," etc. These dramas usually show the rivalry between concubines in the harem in a more exaggerated form. And We will recommend some excellent palace dramas in a separate article.
Generally speaking, the plot of historical political dramas unfolds in a group drama structure with complex relationships, diverse character relationships, and suspenseful time clues. Even though the overall episodes are long, multiple characters and their relationships with each other are pre-determined, making the plot build-up and transformation more natural and compact.
The design of the characters in historical political dramas is closer to the historical characters' personalities. The makeup, traditional costumes, etiquette, props, and scenes are designed regarding the basic styles in historical records, considering the combination with the current aesthetic elements based on care, which can instantly attract the audience.
The following are the ten highly acclaimed Chinese historical political dramas compiled by Newhanfu for you.
Nirvana in Fire · 琅琊榜
- Also known as: Lang Ya Bang, Rankings of Lang Ya
- Aired: Sep 19, 2015
- Episodes/Duration: 54/45min
- Period Background: Alternative reality (Northern and Southern Dynasties)
- Genres: Historical, Political, Wuxia
- Main Role: Hu Ge as Mei Chang Su, Liu Tao as Mu Ni Huang, Wang Kai as Xiao Jing Yan
- Related Dramas: Nirvana in Fire 2: The Wind Blows in Chang Lin
Plot Summary of Nirvana in Fire
During the Southern Liang Dynasty, the Northern Wei army was launched to the south, and the young general Lin Shu, went with his father to fight against the enemy. But unexpectedly, 70,000 soldiers were framed by the treacherous people and buried unjustly in Mei Ling.
Lin Shu was lucky to survive, after the pain of losing his relatives and changes appearance entirely, he transformed into Mei Changsu, the leader of the largest gang, the Jiangzuo Alliance.
Twelve years later, Mei Changsu returned to the imperial capital under the pretext of recuperating from an illness and set out on the road to avenge injustice.
He decided to secretly help the virtuous Prince Jing ascend to the throne and wisely removed all the conspirators in the dynasty while also seeking justice for the 70,000 loyal souls.
Reviews of Nirvana in Fire
Throughout the entire drama "Nirvana in Fire," the costumes, props, etiquette, and other external forms of expression, and the ideological connotations and temperament of the characters in the drama all contain a strong "Chinese style."
Mei Chang Su is a good interpretation of the traditional Chinese culture of the "Scholar" image, he painstakingly planned for thirteen years, to help Prince Jing to ascend to the throne, on the one hand, to clear the injustice, but the greater appeal is to support the wise, to reverse the decline of the dynasty, to create a politically clear and prosperous era.
This is the moral character and political ideal of the traditional Chinese scholar. Through meticulous performances, the Chinese heritage of the film is naturally presented.
Ming Dynasty in 1566 · 大明王朝1566
- Also known as: The Great Ming Dynasty 1566, Da Ming Wang Chao 1566, Jia Jing Yu Hai Rui
- Aired: Jan 8, 2007
- Episodes/Duration: 46/56min
- Period Background: Ming Dynasty
- Genres: Historical, Political
- Main Role: Chen Bao Guo as Jiajing Emperor, Huang Zhi Zhong as Prime Minister Hai Rui, Wang Qing Xiang as Hu Zong Xian, Ni Da Hong as Yan Song
Plot Summary of Ming Dynasty in 1566
The pinnacle of Chinese historical political Dramas, the Ming Dynasty in 1566, tells the story of Emperor Jiajing (the eleventh emperor of the Ming Dynasty, who was always absent from the court and obsessed with Taoism, but had the situation under control) and Hai Rui (famous Ming minister).
In the thirty-ninth year of Jiajing, corrupt officials were flourishing, and the people were living in a state of unrest. The traitor Yan Song has a strong clique and power over the court, but Hai Rui, a Qing official, is not afraid of power and dares to challenge the corrupt and feudal imperial power.
Emperor Jiajing had been practicing Taoism for twenty years and always controlled the military and economic power of the Ming Dynasty. At that time, the economy and culture was well developed, but the conflicts between the various social classes were prominent, and the land annexation implemented by the state on a large scale caused millions of peasants to lose the land they depended on overnight.
The dictatorship of Yan Song aroused the discontent of local officials at all levels, and the calls for criticism of Yan Song grew louder and louder. The struggle between the loyal officials and the rebellious officials was constant, from the imperial court to the local officials, everywhere filled with mutual suspicion and collusion.
Reviews of Ming Dynasty in 1566
Ming Dynasty in 1566 is based on the historical background of the Ming Dynasty during the Jiajing period. It portrays a group of familiar historical figures such as Jiajing, Hai Rui and Yan Song.
The drama reveals the social problems and conflicts, the confrontation between the rich and the poor, and the traditional issues of clean and corrupt officials, which are directly related to the present society and provoke the audience to think deeply about the present social conflicts, initiating an unprecedented visual, soul and emotional impact.
The Longest Day In Chang'an · 长安十二时辰
- Also known as: Chang An Shi Er Shi Chen
- Aired: Jun 27, 2019
- Episodes/Duration: 48/40min
- Period Background: Tang Dynasty
- Genres: Historical, Political, Mystery
- Main Role: Lei Jia Yin as Zhang Xiao Jing, Jackson Yee as Li Bi
Plot Summary of The Longest Day In Chang'an
During the Lantern Festival in the third year of Tianbao, a grand lantern ceremony will be held in Chang'an, and huge celebratory lanterns will be lit. Meanwhile, the aging emperor is expected to announce the regency of the Right Chancellor during the Lantern Festival. If the Right Chancellor becomes regent, the reformist Crown Prince could be deposed, or worse.
However, on the morning of that day, the Jing'an Division, which was responsible for the security of Chang'an City, discovered suspicious people had infiltrated Chang'an with a large amount of combustible materials. Fearing that the safety of the nightly lantern festival would be compromised, Division Chancellor Li Bi, a young Daoist priest who also works for the Crown Prince, made an exception and transferred Zhang Xiao Jing out of death row to help solve the case.
On the one hand, there is the game between the Right Chancellor and Crown Prince, and on the other hand, there is the struggle between Zhang Xiaojing and the assassins. It's not only the battle among the courtiers, but also the balance of power between different interests. Who will be the final victor when the celebratory lanterns are lit?
Reviews of The Longest Day In Chang'an
The Longest Day In Chang'an" is a drama with the mainline of suspense and strategy, plus the tension of "time-limited rescue", which supports the whole drama. In the political battle line, the undercurrents and rivalries between factions also allude to the reasons for the decline of the Tang Dynasty.
In the drama, the fate of two minor characters, Zhang Xiaojing and Li Bi, forms empathy with the audience, and what is mapped out from them is the multitude of people. By portraying the great environment with small characters, the characters' sentiments of not giving up chasing their dreams and loving their country are revealed. Of course, it is praiseworthy that the scenes, shots, costumes, and props in this drama have almost reached a perfect level.
The Advisors Alliance · 军师联盟
- Also known as: Da Jun Shi Sima Yi Zhi Jun Shi Lian Meng
- Aired: June 22, 2017
- Episodes/Duration: 42/46min
- Period Background: Later Three Kingdoms Period
- Genres: Historical, Political
- Main Role: Wu Xiu Bo as Si Ma Yi, Liu Tao as Zhang Chun Hua, Li Chen as Cao Pi, Yu He Wei as Cao Cao
- Related Dramas: Growling Tiger, Roaring Dragon
Plot Summary of The Advisors Alliance
The Advisors Alliance is a political drama about the Three Kingdoms from the perspective of Si Ma Yi. It is set against the background of the strife history from the late Eastern Han Dynasty to the return of the three kingdoms to Jin. A veteran minister, Sima Yi, goes from a scholar to the center of power in the empire.
The young Si Ma Yi, originally a timid and cautious scholar, is forcibly recruited by Cao Cao as an official and has to join the Cao family's dark and turbulent struggle for the throne. He uses his strategy to help Cao Pi pass Cao Cao's test repeatedly and help Cao Pi gain the throne.
He made great contributions to the stability and prosperity of Wei by helping Cao Pi to become the founding lord of the state, creating a new government, supporting the scholarly clans, and suppressing the clans. He and Zhuge Liang understood and cherished each other in their battles and games, but they had to fight for their respective countries. Zhuge Liang eventually died of exhaustion, and Sima Yi completely defeated the most powerful opponent in his life.
In Si Ma Yi's old age, he quietly built up his strength, endured humiliation and finally struck a blow to quell Wei's civil unrest. In his life, he had great achievements to protect the country and the people, but also brutal and outstanding open struggles and dark calculations, his wisdom and strategy crowned the world, laying the foundation to end the chaos.
Reviews of The Advisors Alliance
The Advisors Alliance portrays Si Ma Yi as a complex and humane character. With Si Ma Yi's fate and emotions at its core, the whole piece boldly reconstructs history, injecting legendary elements into the character development, not avoiding his sinister and cunning, but at the same time writing about his majesty, warmth and patience, and making a more objective evaluation of Si Ma Yi's historical merits.
The Advisors Alliance's shooting, no matter the layout or visuals, is all cinematic, with full-bodied and dimensional characters. In addition to the heart-stopping brain-burning games and battlefield fights, the family warmth scenes and light-hearted moments break the single heavy aesthetic of the Three Kingdoms drama, and the rhythm is relaxed.
The Qin Empire · 大秦帝国
Plot Summary of The Qin Empire
The Qin Empire series is a long-running historical political drama based on Mr. Sun Haohui's novel of the same name, including "The Qin Empire - Liebian," "The Qin Empire Zongheng," "The Qin Empire - Jueqi" and "Qin Dynasty Epic (2020)".
It tells the story of how the Qin Empire was transformed from weak to strong during the Warring States period, and how it went east to compete with the six kingdoms to unify the world, establish the Qin Dynasty, and finally come to an end. It is an epic poem that shows the magnificent waves of the Warring States period with the Qin state as the main point of view.
The Qin Empire Season 1 (大秦帝国之裂变)
- Aired: Dec 18, 2009
- Episodes/Duration: 51/45min
- Main Role: Hou Yong as Duke Xiao of Qin (Quliang), Wang Zhi Fei as Shang Yang
Two thousand seven hundred years ago, the Spring and Autumn Period ended, and the Warring States Period made its grand entrance along with the conquests.
Qin, a small state in the northwest, was suffering from the destruction of the six kingdoms and was on the verge of extinction. The young Duke Xiao reigned at the moment of crisis after the death of Duke Xian on the battlefield.
Duke Xiao recruited a wide range of wise and capable people, and Wei Yang (Shang Yang), who had been unsuccessful in the state of Wei, came to Qin and was reappointed by Duke Xiao with his talent and sober understanding of the war situation. Wei Yang set off a far-reaching and controversial law change in Qin, and the state began to rise.
The Qin Empire Season 2 (大秦帝国之纵横)
- Aired: September 5, 2013
- Episodes/Duration: 43/45min
- Main Role: Fu Da Long as King Huiwen of Qin (Ying Si), Ning Jing as Mi Ba Zi, Yu En Tai as Zhang Yi
In the middle of the Warring States period, the seven kingdoms were all in power. Qin, which was once close to annihilation, rose rapidly under Shang Yang's Reform and became the most important force in the northwest plain.
However, the young King Huiwen of Qin (Ying Si) was forced by the conservative forces to execute Shang Yang and passively suppress the conservative faction.
On the other hand, King Huiwen of Wei, whose power was declining, used Su Qin's theory of uniting the six states to isolate Qin to contain the eastward advance of his powerful neighbor. While Qin continued to encroach on its neighbors, King Huiwen used Zhang Yi's alliance proposal. The Warring States period also entered its most turbulent period.
The Qin Empire Season 3 (大秦帝国之崛起)
- Aired: February 9, 2017
- Episodes/Duration: 40/45min
- Main Role: Jaco Zhang as King Zhaoxiang of Qin (Ying Ji), Ning Jing as Queen Dowager Xuan (Mi Ba Zi), Xing Jia Dong as General Bai Qi
In 305 BC, King Zhaoxiang of Qin (Ying Ji), the longest-reigning king in Qin's history, succeeded to the throne. During the next fifty-six years, Ying Ji, with the support of his mother, Empress Dowager Xuan, and his uncle, Wei Ran, grew from a young and young king to a resolute and calm king, and the state of Qin became a superpower.
Ying Ji led the people of Qin to destroy Yiqu, build the Great Wall, defeat Qi, capture the capital of Chu, and force Wei, and Han to bow down and fight a terrible battle. The Battle of Changping was a devastating blow to the only remaining enemy: Zhao. And finally, Qin wiped out the Western Zhou. Since then, Qin's power was unparalleled and laid a solid foundation for Ying Zheng's unification of China 86 years later.
The Qin Empire was once rated as one of the three peaks of Chinese historical political dramas, along with Yong Zheng Dynasty and Ming Dynasty in 1566. The drama has a deep and heavy history, there are seven masters of the pattern, and the chaos of the world's power and wisdom.
The drama has a profound and heavy history, the seven Warring States country strife, the power and wisdom struggle in the chaos.
The Rise of Phoenixes · 天盛长歌
- Also known as: Tian Sheng Chang Ge
- Aired: Aug 14, 2018
- Episodes/Duration: 56/45min
- Period Background: Alternative reality
- Genres: Historical, Political, Romance
- Main Role: Chen Kun as Ning Yi, Ni Ni as Feng Zhi Wei
Plot Summary of The Rise of Phoenixes
Ning Yi is the sixth prince of the Tian Sheng Dynasty and has great talent. Since his childhood, he has been involved in the power struggle of the royal family and has grown up in the power battle with other royal sons. Ning Yi is intelligent but not overt, patient and restrained, and eventually becomes the emperor in the midst of power and calculations.
Feng Zhi Wei's life is full of ups and downs and she has experienced life and death several times. As an orphan of the previous dynasty, she was bullied since childhood, and then disguised as a man to serve as a general, with the name "Wei Zhi". Feng Zhi Wei in a crowd of courtiers among the wisdom and strategy does not lose a point, with perseverance and wisdom to become famous.
Reviews of The Rise of Phoenixes
The Rise of Phoenixes uses the emotional entanglement of Ning Yi and Feng Zhiwei to run through the power struggle of the entire Tian Sheng Dynasty, which highlights not only their strong love, but also the alienated kinship of the royal family, the righteousness of the rivers and lakes, and the friendship of strangers to protect each other, which connects all the lives under the turbulent times and highlights the independent and equal concept of love and country sentiment.
Kang Xi Dynasty · 康熙王朝
- Also known as: Kang Xi Wang Chao
- Aired: Dec 3, 2001
- Episodes/Duration: 46/45min
- Period Background: Qing Dynasty
- Genres: Historical, Political
- Main Role: Chen Dao Ming as Emperor Kang Xi, Gao Lan Cun as Nalan Ming Zhu, Siqin Gaowa as Empress Dowager Xiaozhuang
Plot Summary of Kang Xi Dynasty
In the eighteenth year of the Shunzhi era in the Qing Dynasty, smallpox spread in the palace, the Shunzhi Emperor's concubine Dong died, and Shunzhi was very sad, and decided to become a monk.
At this time, the Qing Empire was full of internal and external worries. At the critical moment, Empress Dowager Xiaozhuang made a timely decision to let imperial son Xuan Ye (Kang Xi) inherit the throne, who was smallpox healed and only eight-year-old. After Kangxi's reign, for the sake of the overall situation, Xiaozhuang temporarily let the Oboi regency, who holds military power.
But Oboi's ambition did not stop there, his ultimate goal was to plot a change of dynasty. Teenage Kangxi's resourcefulness, first relax Oboi's vigilance, and then invited Oboi into the palace and take advantage of the opportunity to put him under house arrest, finally for the Qing dynasty, in addition to major hidden trouble, to save the kingdom.
Subsequently, Kangxi is to inspire governance, starting from defeat the long-standing concerns of the three vassal powers, to begin a period of removing the chaos and maintaining stability.
Reviews of Kang Xi Dynasty
Kang Xi Dynasty has a majestic plot and profound characterization, with grand battlefields, unpredictable court and officialdom struggles, heartfelt emotional life. This is the first time that the perspective of a drama portrayed the legendary life of Emperor Kangxi in the early Qing Dynasty.
Han Wu Da Di · 汉武大帝
- Also known as: The Great Han Wu Emperor
- Aired: Jan 2, 2005
- Episodes/Duration: 58/45min
- Period Background: Han Dynasty
- Genres: Historical, Political
- Main Role: Chen Bao Guo as Emperor Wu of Han (Liu Che), Jiao Huang as Emperor Jing of Han (Liu Qi), Gui Ya Lei as Empress Dowager Dou, Tao Hong as Princess Liu Ling
Plot Summary of Han Wu Da Di
After pacifying the rebellions of the vassal states, Emperor Jing set out to solve the problem of kingdoms and reduce the power of vassals to strengthen centralization, and followed the strategy of ruling by Wu Wei.
However, the newly stable Western Han Dynasty had to endure humiliation in the face of the powerful Xiongnu invasion, and maintained border security by marriage alliance.
After the death of Emperor Jing, the young Liu Che gained the throne under the careful planning of his scheming mother Wang. Emperor Wu showed a different spirit and wisdom from previous kings after he acceded to the throne, opening up the way of speech, searching for wise ministers, and implementing reforms.
With the foundation laid by Emperor Jing, Emperor Wu continued to expand the foundation of the Western Han Dynasty, showing a growing imperial spirit in the face of setbacks and difficulties, and with the help of Wei Qing, he drove the Xiongnu out of the Central Plains, sweeping away the national shame of the past. Under Liu Che's iron-fisted rule, the Western Han Dynasty reached an unprecedented heyday.
The Rise of the Tang Empire · 贞观之治
- Also known as: Zhen Guan Zhi Zhi
- Aired: Dec 26, 2006
- Episodes/Duration: 50/46min
- Period Background: Tang Dynasty
- Genres: Historical, Political
- Main Role: Ma Yue as Emperor Tai Zong of Tang (Li Shi Min), Pu Miao as Empress Zhang Sun, Chin Shih Chieh as Wei Zheng, Ma Shao Hua as Zhangsun Wuji
Plot Summary of The Rise of the Tang Empire
The Reign of Zhenguan (贞观之治) refers to the reign of Emperor Taizong Li Shimin in the early Tang Dynasty, which was marked by political clarity, economic recovery, and cultural prosperity.
The Rise of the Tang Empire is a historical political drama based on the Old Book of Tang, reflecting the reign of Zhenguan.
In 620 A.D., the third year of Wu De, Li Shimin, the second son of Li Yuan, the founder of the Tang Dynasty, was ordered by his father to conquer Luoyang in the east. Li Shimin was credited with defeating two of the most powerful enemies of the Tang Dynasty. After the bloody Xuanwu Gate Incident, Li Shimin became the crown prince as he wished and took control of the dynastic power.
Li Shimin ascended the throne, he deeply felt the huge gap between ruling the world and fighting the world. He revised the year name, replacing the original "Wu De" with "Zhenguan", which represented forbearance and goodness, and formally began the era that lasted for more than 20 years and was called "The Reign of Zhenguan" by later generations.
Reviews of The Rise of the Tang Empire
The Rise of the Tang Empire recreates the early Tang era in a documentary-like manner. From the plot, lines to architecture, props, costumes, etc. basically restored the charm of the early Tang Dynasty, from the simple headdress of the characters, the dark tone but wide cuffs of clothing, and even the shape of Li Shimin's beard, etc. can be seen, the creators have achieved the standard of historical facts.
Yong Zheng Dynasty · 雍正王朝
- Also known as: Yong Zheng Wang Chao
- Aired: Jan 3, 1999
- Episodes/Duration: 44/42min
- Period Background: Qing Dynasty
- Genres: Historical, Political
- Main Role: Tang Guo Qiang as Emperor Yongzheng (Yin Zhen), Jiao Huang as Emperor Kang Xi (Xuan Ye)
Plot Summary of Yong Zheng Dynasty
Yongzheng was a diligent and conscientious candidate for the throne, but was often misunderstood as ruthless. In 1722 A.D., Yongzheng, the fourth son of Kangxi, succeeded to the throne.
At the end of Kangxi's reign, the country's treasury was nearly empty, and restoring it was just one of the many challenges Yongzheng had to face before and during his reign.
A series of historical events aimed at implementing the new government, curbing the enrichment of the officials and gentry, and internal party disputes and squeezes within the court continued throughout the Yongzheng dynasty.
Driven by political motives, could Yongzheng emerge victorious against the Eight Princes and their supporters? Or will internal turmoil threaten the stability and direction of the state?
Reviews of Yong Zheng Dynasty
Yong Zheng Dynasty continues to represent the highest level of historical political drama. Its spectacular historical background, thrilling political storms, and the appropriate performance of every character in the drama, make it an essential and unparalleled position in the Chinese drama.
Centered on the power struggle, Yong Zheng Dynasty shows the tense struggle and conflict between men, especially those who are related by blood. The treacherous and volatile court politics give a glimpse into the history of a generation of dynasties. The characters in the annals are vividly and naturally portrayed in the play, and the twists and turns of the storyline make it unforgettable.
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