Hello! This is my first article ever, so bear with me and feel free to leave feedback!
My first 10 or so dramas were all historical C-dramas with more than 40 episodes (I still don't know how I managed) and this genre (which is my favorite) has a special place in my heart. As we all probably can agree, historical dramas are truly amazing because of the gorgeous costumes, sets, captivating storylines, plot twists, and of course the martial art scenes. But one thing I am always on the lookout for is well-written, intriguing characters which is why in this article, I will be sharing a few of my favorite characters from historical C-dramas.
*Not in any particular order*
#1: Fan Xian from Joy of Life
If you’ve seen me floating around on MDL, you’ll know that my all-time favorite drama is Joy of Life. Well-loved by others, I can confidently say one of the reasons why this drama is just simply outstanding is because of the main character, Fan Xian, the son of a government official, portrayed by Zhang Ruo Yun.
An incredibly multi-dimensional and dynamic character, Fan Xian is a formidable opponent for anyone who chooses to fight against him. He is able to analyze any given situation at hand and plan his moves according to the gravity of the situation. Fan Xian is one of the wittiest, if not the wittiest character I’ve ever seen, and has a great sense of humor. Being incredibly convincing, able to toy with other people’s mind making them feel like they committed a crime that they actually didn’t, and able to handle anyone coming his way with not just fighting physically but fighting with words and knowledge is something I really admire of Fan Xian’s character. Something else that wowed me was his martial arts skill; watching him fly across the screen always got me rooting for him and made me feel super hyped.
Although his character seems quite complicated, being extremely intelligent, cunning, a badass fighter, and having to constantly deal with enemies coming his way, Fan Xian’s life motto is just to live life with joy hence the drama title, “Joy of Life''. He is full of positivity and joy and is a family man as well. His relationship with his friends and siblings, who all cherish each other (something rare we see in costume dramas) was visibly genuine, able to make me feel the close bond between them.
The actor Zhang Ruo Yun did a spectacular job portraying Fan Xian and in my opinion, was the perfect choice of casting. No one else could have taken on the role of Fan Xian this perfectly. His subtle expressions to his natural charisma as Fan Xian embodied the character to the T.
#2: Uncle Wu Zhu from Joy of Life
As you can probably tell by my profile picture and my raves about him (sorry not sorry), it comes to no surprise that one of my favorite characters is none other than our beloved Uncle Wu Zhu (played by Tong Meng Shi) from Joy of Life.
In relation to Fan Xian (the main character of Joy of Life which I mentioned above), Uncle WuZhu is his bodyguard, a parental figure, uncle (not blood related, an ex-servant of FX’s mother), or in simple terms, Fan Xian’s guardian angel. Like many other viewers, I admit: Uncle WuZhu is very handsome, dressed in all black with a black cloth covering his eyes, with an unexplainable mysterious aura that just grabs your attention. But not only is he very handsome, but his martial art skills are also outrageously impressive, superhuman if you will, and he is one of the best martial arts masters in all of Dramaland (so for those who enjoy martial arts, this one is for you). Uncle WuZhu's interactions with Fan Xian are quite hilarious, often vanishing and appearing without a trace like a ghost irritating him and is a man of few words but is always there to help Fan Xian. I don’t really know how else to explain it, but if you have watched this show you will understand that Uncle WuZhu just grapples your attention and for those who are planning to watch this, watch out because he will immediately catch your eye!
#3: Chu Qiao from Princess Agents
Chu Qiao is one of the most badass woman warriors I’ve ever seen in a drama/movie and might I say one of the best ever? From the beginning of the drama, I could tell that she was going to be full of surprises and was a force not to be reckoned with. Although she didn’t know any martial arts in the beginning and was a slave, I could tell she had a burning desire to live and was very intelligent, very aware of her surroundings which got me hooked on the drama. Chu Qiao is courageous, clever, witty, extremely loyal, and firm in her beliefs, not your damsel-in-distress. Portrayed by Zhao Li Ying, a veteran actress, the martial arts scenes were executed with such fiery passion and it’s not every day you see the female lead decapitate people :)
However, Chu Qiao isn’t perfect; she has made a handful of mistakes and at times is blinded by her deep loyalty to people. At the end of the day, no character is perfect -no human is perfect- and her ability to bounce back from a setback with an even stronger mentality and an urge to do better was what really made me admire and love her character even more. One interesting thing I noticed about her character is that she never really paid too much attention to romance; at times she didn’t even know someone had feelings for her and many times in dramas we see the female lead blinded by love but in this drama, Chu Qiao had her heart and mindset straight on what she needed to accomplish and didn’t let romance hold her back.
It was super refreshing to see a character like Chu Qiao, the definition of a badass, in a drama, and Zhao Li Ying whom I love, was absolutely perfect playing her.
#4: Prince Bo/LangZai from The Wolf
For those who watched The Wolf, Prince Bo also known as “狼仔 LangZai” might be your least favorite character in The Wolf. However I actually really enjoyed his character (plus the growth) and Darren Wang as LangZai was just fantastic.
Unlike most princes in historical dramas, LangZai has a very unique background and upbringing which influences his way of thinking and actions as a prince. LangZai was raised by wolves in the wild, thus being super innocent and was never exposed to the cruelties of humanity. However, due to an incident (and was later adopted by the emperor), his view on people changed and became cold, scarred, shutting out everyone. He isn’t your perfect prince/ML; throughout the whole drama, he struggles with his conflicting beliefs and two identities (something I don’t see quite often when it comes to the male lead): choosing to be the king’s puppet/assassin as Prince Bo vs staying true to his righteous self as LangZai. In the first half of the drama, many including myself felt hatred towards LangZai’s cold, rude, arrogant character but as the story unfolded I felt sympathy and empathy towards him and came to understand why he became so guarded.
Although he had his few shares of flaws, what made me fall in love with his character was how selfless and sacrificial he was and his undeniable love he had for Xing’er (the FL). How he was willing to hurt himself to protect Xing’Er at all costs throughout all the misunderstandings and “break-ups” they had. There was even a point in the story where he purposely told the 2nd ML to be with Xing’er to protect her. I mean from my drama experience that’s pretty rare :)
Huge props to Darren Wang who played LangZai so perfectly, if it wasn’t Darren who played LangZai I don’t think this drama would’ve lasted for me. His subtle expressions, smirks, grins, wolf imitations, and growls just boosted this drama even further. LangZai’s well-choreographed fighting scenes (as you can tell by now, I love dramas with martial arts) really captured the animalistic behavior of LangZai. Darren Wang looked extremely handsome and was definitely smoldering in the costume/hair in every shot. I definitely would like to see him cast in more historical dramas!
#5: Yuan Jin Xia from Under the Power
Yuan Jin Xia played by Seven Tan from the drama Under the Power is one of my favorite characters; a strong female lead with a heavy sprinkle of sass and spunk. Now while this drama wasn’t exactly perfect, I absolutely loved Jin Xia’s character. She is tomboyish, courageous, and filled with determination while performing her duties as a police officer; she even knows how to wield a gun. With a personality like a firecracker, always on the lookout for food, extremely greedy for money, and never miscounting or calculating her coins, Jin Xia’s character lit up this drama with so much life and fun. When it comes to working Jin Xia is focused, setting her mind to catching the criminal; however, outside of work, she’s a ball of joy. Undeniably hilarious, mischievous, carefree, and a bit dramatic, it was a joy watching a character like Jin Xia throughout all of the cases and missions she underwent. One thing that I really enjoyed seeing was the fact that her fellow male police officer let her do all the fighting, butt-kicking, and interrogation.
On the surface it may seem like Jin Xia is trying to be the hero, proving to everyone that girls are on par with guys but deep down she’s just trying to protect her family and friends, the people she loves and cares about the most. At times she may be sensitive and crying because she’s lost (not literally) but she never fails to bounce back with more fervor ready to catch the bad guys.
Seven Tan did an amazing job portraying Jin Xia. She's such a great actress and extremely versatile being able to play a teenager (ie . Go Ahead which I highly recommend) to roles in a pure rom-com (ie. Fox's Summer) to Jin Xia a character who has brains, brawns, and a whole lot of spirit.
So, those are my favorite historical C-drama characters! I didn’t think writing an article would be this much fun. While thinking back and jotting down ideas for each character I felt as if I was re-watching each drama again :) I hope reading this gave you some new drama ideas to add to your PTW list (I highly recommend Joy of Life :D), some actors to look out for and if you’ve watched those mentioned, re-watch them!
I might do a part 2 to this article since I still have many character candidates in mind or maybe one for modern C-dramas. Who are your favorite historical characters? Do you agree or disagree with my choices? Please feel free to let me know your thoughts and if you would like to see part 2! And until my next article (if that even happens lol) thank you for reading!