If you are familiar with Chinese dramas, you might have heard about Novoland. Maybe you have seen some of the adaptations or maybe you are still wondering about which one should be watched first. This article will help you understand a little bit about this growing media franchise.
What is Novoland?
Novoland (九州, Jiuzhou in Chinese, meaning Nine Provinces/Lands) is a fictional world created by a group of Chinese writers back in 2001. The main contributors to this universe are the so-called “Seven Deities”: Shuipao, Pan Haitian, Jin Hezai, Zhan’an, Yaokong, Duoshi, and Jiang Nan. They have published, through different publishing houses or their own magazines, plenty of novels and short stories, independent from one another, linked together by the same setting. Over the years, many other writers joined in, expanding this universe through new stories and characters, and the world of Novoland has become the inspiration for numerous computer games, movies and TV series.
Novoland: Geography and History
According to the myth, the lands of Novoland were formed from the primordial Chaos by the clash of different forces. Originally a single territory, following a series of earthquakes and floods the lands drifted apart, dividing into three continents:
1. the Northern Lands, comprising the cold regions of Shang 殇 where the Kuafu live, the prairies of Han 瀚 inhabited by nomadic human tribes, and the province of Ning 宁 (also called Qing 青)* home of the Winged Tribe.
2. the Western Lands, consisting of the mountainous Yun 云 and the fertile Lei 雷 provinces.
3. the Eastern Lands, including the provinces of Zhong 中, Lan 澜, Wan 宛 and Yue 越, where Humans, Heluo and Winged Tribe reside.
* In 2018, author Jiang Nan published a new map, changing the name of the Winged Tribe’s province from Ning to Qing and partially modifying the borderlands. To see the new map, go here.
The land of Novoland comprehends nine different provinces – from which the name Novo-Lands stems – and is home to six different ethnicities, coexisting since the ancient times. Novoland's history spans over 10’000 years, during which numerous dynasties have succeeded one another to the throne.
Spread amongst the nine provinces and its seas, six different species live in Novoland.
Lacking in magical ability, but making up the majority of the population, the Human species comprises the nomadic tribes from the prairies...
|...and the so-called Huaren, who have created an empire ruling over the Eastern Lands.|
Also known as Soarers or Yuren, an isolated species that resides in the mountains and forests of Ning and Lan, the Winged tribe have developed wings to soar in the skies.
Called also Mei, the most mysterious and powerful of the species, they have no material form, but are instead made of pure magical essence. The Charmers live sparsely in Novoland territories.
Also known as the Wise, little in size and similar to dwarfs, they are skilled in the art of forging metals. The Heluo people live secluded in subterranean caves and can’t mix with other races.
Ferocious giants living in the glacial areas of the north, the Kuafu are at least twice as tall as a human and have a sharp sense of hearing.
Inhabiting the seas surrounding the three continents, the Oceanides' origin is unknown. Also known as the Merfolk, they are similar to humans but provided with a fish-like tail.
In the recent years, numerous Novoland novels have been adapted into movies and TV series. Inspired from works of different authors, these adaptations focus on various aspects, timelines and tribes of this fictional world.
Since the adaptations are based on different novels and some are even completely original works, there’s no specific order that must be followed to understand the main story. However, considering that the creators of Novoland have precisely divided its history according to eight main dynasties, it’s possible to group chronologically the majority of the series:
- Xian dynasty 燹朝, the first hereditary dynasty of Novoland, created from the alliance of different tribes.
- Chao dynasty 晁朝, a flourishing period for the slave trade and the beginning of the official territorial division in nine provinces.
> setting of: The Princess from Plateau
- Ben dynasty 贲朝, during which a system of vassal states was introduced to administrate the various lands.
- Yin dynasty 胤朝, the golden age of the Eastern Lands.
> setting of: The Lure of the Hua Xu Song, Bai Que Shen Gui, Wings of Wind, Eagle Flag
- Xie dynasty 燮朝, that ruled for only 120 years.
- Sheng dynasty 晟朝, also known as the Later Xie, since the founding Emperor was a descendant of the previous royal family lineage.
- Duan dynasty 端朝, born from the alliance between the Muyun family, that ascended to the throne, and the Murong family, that controlled the military power in the name of the empire. In its final years, the dynasty divided into the Western Duan ruling over Wan province and the Eastern Duan controlling Zhong province.
> setting of: Storm of Prophecy
- Zheng dynasty 徵朝, the last dynasty that unified once again the empire after two hundred years of turmoils following the internal division of the Duan dynasty.
> setting of: Pearl Eclipse
Aside from the chronological order, adaptations can be also picked according to their genre and typology. An easy way to start immersing in Novoland is the series The Castle in the Sky, not really congruent with the world narrated in the books, but less political than other adaptations and more suitable for watchers looking for romantic stories. If one prefers more scheming and intense plots, then the right choice would be epic dramas such as Storm of Prophecy or Eagle Flag. And for a one-off watch, the best recommendation would be stand-alone movies such as Legend of the Naga Pearls or Suffering of Love, useful to get a grip of the overall setting, even if they might not be a match for longer series.
Let's now have a detailed look at the works part of this franchise:
The Castle in the Sky is an original series inspired by the Novoland universe but it's not an adaptation of any novel.
Set in a non-specific time period of Novoland, the story focuses on Yi Fulin, a human girl, reincarnation of the Goddess of Shooting Stars Flower Fairy whose power enabled the Winged Tribe to grow wings, and Feng Tianyi, spoiled prince of the Winged Tribe.
The Castle in the Sky has a sequel, The Castle in the Sky 2, concentrated on Yi Fulin and Feng Tianyi’s daughter Feng Ruche and her fated romance with sorcerer Xue Jingkong...
...and a spin-off movie, The Castle in the Sky - Time Reversal, depicting the background story of one of the main antagonists of the first series, Feng Ren, uncle of Feng Tianyi.
Novoland: Legend of the Naga Pearls is a movie in which a thief, a human prince and a constable join hands to stop a royal prince of the Winged Tribe that is trying to destroy the human race.
>> This is an original story, ideally set after the events of The Castle in the Sky but has no link with them in terms of plot.
>> This is a stand-alone movie and doesn’t require any prior knowledge.
The Lure of the Hua Xun Song is set in a period of political disunity and follows the story of a resurrected princess who can enchant people through her melodies and the war between three kingdoms.
>> This drama is based on Tang Qi Gongzi’s novel and it's the first adaptation of a Novoland work.
Set at the end of Yin dynasty, Novoland: Eagle Flag follows the adventures of a prince of the nomadic tribes, a princess of the Winged Tribe and an unfavored son of a nobleman, who join hands to uncover a powerful conspiracy and revive the outlawed Tianqu Warriors.
>> This drama is adapted from the homonym collection by Jiang Nan.
Set during the powerful Duan dynasty, Tribes and Empires: Storm of Prophecy develops three interconnected stories of a royal prince, half-charmer and half-human, the abandoned son of a powerful general and the heir of an annihilated nomadic tribe seeking revenge for his people.
>> This drama is adapted from the homonym novel by Jin Hezai.
Novoland: Pearl Eclipse's shooting ended in September 2020, but the drama is yet to be released. Set during the last dynasty of Novoland, the story will focus on a member of the Oceanides, whose family has been killed, that becomes the personal guard of the Emperor.
>> This drama is adapted from the homonym novel by Xiao Ruse.
Below, other titles part of the Novoland franchise that have been announced, but only few details are known to the public:
Novoland: The Princess from Plateau is an adaptation of a novel by Zhan’an. The story will be set during the Chao dynasty and will focus on a woman from the prairies, who plots to assassinate the Chao Emperor in order to avenge her friend's death. >> The shooting ended in February 2021.
Novoland: Bai Que Shen Gui is a drama adaptation of Tang Que’s novel, set during the middle-later period of the Yin dynasty.
Novoland: Wing of Wind is a drama adaptation of Jin Hezai’s novel, focused on the Winged Tribe and set in the final years of the Yin dynasty.
The Anecdote of Novoland series will be made up of two movies: Dream Eater and Torch Dragon, that separately follow the story of two heroes fighting against two mythical beasts, the Dream Eater and the Torch Dragon.
>> According to the casting agency, the shooting of these two movies was scheduled for June 2020.
The two movies Dragon Abyss and Trace of the Dragon are adapted from the two homonym novels by Tang Que, the latter sequel of the former. The story narrates the adventures of Yun Zhan, knight-errant of the Winged Tribe and last of the Tianqu Warriors.
>> According to the casting agency, the shootings of these two movies were scheduled respectively for November 2020 and April 2021.
Disclaimer: This table features announced titles, info might be wrong and change later.
Our tour of the Novoland universe ends here. Far from being exhaustive, this little guide is only a brief introduction to a more vast and complex topic. I only hope that now this intricate world has become a little less complicated.
For further information, you can have a look at these links:
- Official Weibo accounts: Jiuzhou Zhi, Novoland: Eagle Flag, Tribes and Empires: Storm of Prophecy, Novoland: The Castle in the Sky, Novoland: Princess from Plateau, Novoland: Pearl Eclipse,
- Wikipedia and Baidu Baike pages,
- MDL Custom List, this is my personal list linking to all Novoland titles currently present in MDL database, with some details about adaptations, correlations between titles and other info,
- Other sources listed below.
~ Thanks for reading till the end ~
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the images used in the article. The drawings are taken from Baidu and Weibo. The GIFs are taken from Castle in the Sky 2, Tribes and Empire: Storm of Prophecy and the trailer of Novoland: Suffering of Love. The cover posters are taken from MyDramaList and Tencent Video. The English names of the Tribes (Soarers, Wise, Charmers, and Oceanides) are taken from Tribes and Empires: Storm of Prophecy – one of the few works featuring all the six species – and may differ from other media.