Recently, major Chinese video platforms have successively released their reserve drama series lineup for 2024, and a group of costume dramas have appeared, sparking anticipation among viewers.
The costume fantasy drama "The Legend of Shen Li" is adapted from Jiulu Feixiang's novel of the same name, telling the love story of the ancient divine lord Xing Zhi and the emerald king Shen Li, who was born with a pearl in her mouth. The costume legendary drama "The Legend of Jewelry" is led by Zhao Lusi and Liu Yuning. In the drama resources released by Mango TV, dramas such as "Flourished Peony", "Destiny and Saving", and "The Ming Dynasty Youth" are included.
From a comprehensive perspective, a batch of historical dramas such as "The Litchi Road" and "Han Dynasty Epic" will be broadcast in 2024. Previously, concept posters for dramas such as "Feng He Jin Qi Zhang Ju Zheng" and "The Epic of Tang Dynasty" were also released to create early hype. Incomplete statistics show that there are currently more than 10 historical dramas awaiting broadcast, including "Liang Jing Shi Wu Ri," "Silk-Washing Stream," "Legend of Wu Zi Xu," "Peace in Palace, Peace in Chang'An".
Among the popular costume dramas aired this year, the number of ancient legendary dramas has always been at the top, followed by fantasy martial arts, light-hearted comedy, and suspense genres. Many costume dramas have incorporated elements such as sweet romance, and from the 2024 drama series lineup released by various platforms, costume dramas are showing a trend of explosive growth with new narrative techniques.
Legendary Characters, Historical Drama
Costume dramas have always been the attention-grabbing force in the drama market, and every year's opening lineup will always produce remarkable works. Most of the costume dramas entering the market this year are adapted from intellectual property, promoting new costume styles, new martial arts, and emphasizing sweet romance, inspirational stories, and legendary characters.
Looking at the current new costume dramas on the screen, most of them avoid the colors of harem struggles, political schemes, and historical fabrications, and instead turn to lighter and easier-to-handle styles such as sweet romance, family stories, and legendary characters, staying away from distorting history, altering history, and creating fictional history. Historical dramas will also experience a revival in 2024.
For example, the "The Epic of Tang Dynasty" series will be divided into two parts. The first part, "Po Zhen Yue," tells the story of the young Li Shimin's search for his family and the destiny of his country in the chaotic end of the Sui Dynasty, and his journey of self-growth. The second part, "Wei Feng Yin," tells the story of the young Li Shimin's struggle and ultimate growth into a wise ruler after experiencing a great upheaval in his family. This is a historical drama with modern aesthetics, blending elements of extreme Eastern aesthetics, and presenting the iron-blooded wars of the era of cold weapons, as well as looking back at the pioneering road of the Tang Dynasty, showcasing the cultural genes of the Chinese nation that have never ceased to explore and advance.
The "Han Dynasty Epic" series will reflect historical changes from a modern perspective, comprehensively showcasing the national destiny and grandeur of the Han Dynasty at its peak, thus highlighting the glorious moments of the Chinese nation.
"Peace in Palace, Peace in Chang'An" will be the first costume drama to fully showcase the historical magnificence of the construction of Beijing City's central axis and the Forbidden City in the Ming Dynasty. Drama "The Litchi Road" is adapted from Ma Boyong's novel of the same name, tells the difficult task of transporting fresh lychees over a thousand miles, reflecting the macro social aspects of the Great Tang Dynasty through micro personal stories. "The Story of Wang Yang Ming" takes the life trajectory of Mr. Wang Yangming as the carrier and the enlightenment of learning as the soul, fully showcasing Wang Yangming's integration of virtue, achievement, speech, and self into one, and his bright heart throughout his life.
It can be seen that the character development in the new costume dramas not only possesses distinct personality traits but also pursues multidimensional and rich character layers, delving into the shining points and complexities of the characters' personalities in dramatic conflicts.
Light-hearted narrative trend
After years of development, ancient costume dramas have gone through stages focused on royal officials, palace beauties, and martial arts heroes. Now they are shifting towards civilianization, domestication, and lightweight storytelling. This trend is an inevitable development of new ancient costume dramas and also meets the demands of contemporary aesthetics.
The upcoming ancient costume drama "Riverside Scene at Qingming Festival" tells the detective story of Zhao Buyou and his family during the Xuanhe period of the Northern Song Dynasty. The drama recreates the various areas and iconic buildings of the "Along the River During the Qingming Festival" on a 1:1 scale. By focusing on the ordinary people of the Northern Song Dynasty, it vividly reproduces various intangible cultural heritages and the lively atmosphere of the market.
From the perspective of the story content, ancient costume dramas are one of the most distinctive genres in the East, and they can best showcase the grand world of Chinese people's imagination. With the popularity fantasy dramas in recent years, ancient costume dramas in the genres of immortals, fantasy, and mythology have remained popular. However, while being enthusiastic about hit IP, popular stars, visual effects, and sweet romance, it is also hoped that domestic ancient costume dramas can have fewer clichés and more substance, putting effort into the plot, characters, and dramatic art.
Independent perspective of female
Nowadays, ancient costume dramas with female themes are eye-catching. However, compared to the image of the dominant female protagonist in previous years, there have been some changes in narrative patterns and character development. The originally singular and symbolic image has become more vivid, three-dimensional, and more in line with the expectations of contemporary independent women. The story is no longer immersed in portraying simple love, but rather takes the female protagonist from surface independence to a deeper level of maturity.
For example, the ancient costume drama "Scent of Time" tells the story of Hua Qian (played by Zhou Ye) who once made irreversible mistakes because of her persistence in loving Zun Yelan (played by Peng Chuyue). After starting over, she strives for change, redemption, and self-healing. The drama conveys positive values of healing and self-redemption to the audience through Hua Qian's journey. It emphasizes that everyone makes mistakes, but it takes determination to correct them and courage to bear the consequences.
The upcoming drama "Flourished Peony" set in the Tang Dynasty, depicts the inspiring story of a flower craftsman named He Weifang who writes a legend of benefiting the people with peonies, together with Jiang Changyang, an elegant lady in Chang'an.
Although it has become the norm for ancient costume dramas to be released online, the production and broadcasting ecosystem has become more diversified with self-produced dramas, exclusive dramas, copyrighted dramas, and profit-sharing dramas. Whether it is the reserve lineup, upcoming dramas, or already broadcasted dramas, ancient costume dramas have shown a higher standard in terms of theme, content, and intention. Platform operators and content creators are paying more attention to content quality. The competition in the field of ancient costume dramas is becoming more intense, and the threshold is getting higher. As 2024 approaches, it is worth looking forward to which production will dominate the next wave of ancient costume dramas.