Five Things Taiwanese Idol Dramas Say About Love in China

Down With Love Taiwanese Idol Drama promotional poster
What do Taiwanese Idol Dramas -- such as "Down With Love" -- say about love in China? (image from wikimedia commons)

This year, I’ve enjoyed a summer of love — if, by love, you mean the love portrayed in Taiwanese Idol Dramas. I got hooked sometime in June on Down With Love. Before I knew it, I tuned in for parts of Romantic Princess, Sunshine Angel, Miss No Good, They Kiss Again and even Taiwan’s version of Honey and Clover.

The more I watched, the more I realized these shows have something to say about love in China. Here are five things I noticed.

1. Marry a guy with money. Most of the male leads in these shows come from high society — such as heads/CEOs/heirs to large corporations (Dao Mingsi from Meteor Garden), lawyers (Xiang Yuping from Down With Love), and celebrities (Bian Dang from Marry Me!). Contrast that with the female leads — poorer backgrounds (Shan Cai from Meteor Garden, Yangguang from Sunshine Angel, Jia Di in Why Why Love?), and often with only one or no parents (Yang Guo from Down With Love).

Now, I love a good Cinderella “he rescued me” fantasy as much as the next girl. But when I see this happening over and over again in most of these series, I can’t help but think of the current China marriage culture of house-car-money (in the guy’s case) equals wedding.

2. Sex is serious stuff. There’s plenty of city here, but practically no sex. Instead, the characters — especially the women — have the kind of virginal, never-been-kissed (or barely-been-kissed) feel to them you’ll never find on Beverly Hills 90210.

The fact you don’t see one-night stands and casual sleeping around simply reflects the dating reality in China — that people usually only sleep with someone they’re serious about (think: heading towards marriage).

3. It’s hard to say “I love you” in Chinese. When a lead in a Taiwanese idol drama finally confesses love, you might be surprised by the choice of words: wo xihuan ni (我喜欢你, I like you).

Why not wo ai ni (我爱你,I love you)? That puzzled me for the longest time, until I realized how, over the years, my Chinese husband never once said “I love you” in Chinese. After all, in Chinese culture, love is better expressed through actions, not words.

4. Chinese parents have a say. How many times I have seen the wealthy parents — usually his — stand in the way of marrying the poorer female lead? Of course it makes for good drama. But on the other hand, it’s a reminder that Chinese parents still love to have an opinion on who you date — and sometimes even stand in the way.

5. Ends with a proposal and marriage. For the most part, these men like it and, in the end, put a ring on it (Meteor Garden II, Down With Love, Sunshine Angel, Miss No Good, It Started With a Kiss and many more). These are love stories, and it’s the natural conclusion. Yet, given how many Chinese date with the intention of marriage, it seems even more fitting.

What about you? What do you think Taiwanese Idol Dramas have to say about love in China?

Did you enjoy this article?
Sign up now and receive an email whenever I publish new blog posts. We respect your privacy. You can unsubscribe at any time.
I agree to have my personal information transfered to MailChimp ( more information )

You might also like:

20 thoughts on “Five Things Taiwanese Idol Dramas Say About Love in China

  • August 1, 2011 at 8:34 am
    Permalink

    I had survived from this kind of dramas since I was a little boy. 😛
    It is a pretty good way to understand Chinese girls’ behaviour.
    So you can understand how hard the normal chinese guys’ love would be.
    By the way, is there any internet dating website you can recomend (I am blocked in the Chinese intranet ).

    Reply
  • August 1, 2011 at 9:41 am
    Permalink

    I never thought that much about it, but you’re right! I’ll have to send a link to your blog to one of my best friends (and music partner) who lives in China (she teaches English) and get her take on things.

    I will say that I’ve discovered some fun music through the idol dramas. 🙂 (S.H.E and Farhenheit, for example)

    Reply
  • August 1, 2011 at 9:52 am
    Permalink

    Much of this spirit is in turn borrowed from Korean soap operas…

    Reply
  • August 1, 2011 at 12:44 pm
    Permalink

    Crystal, Taiwan/ Hong Kong soap operas came before or after Korean soaps? Here in Malaysia, it has always been Hong Kong/Taiwan soaps before the Korean soaps came. In fact, nobody here ever heard of Korean stuff until lately. Back as early as the middle 70s it had always been Taiwanese love movies or Hong Kong stuff until about of 2005 when Korean soaps began to make their mark. And they are all about the same. So, I would have thought it is the other way around, that the Koreans borrowed the spirit of Tawanese/Hong Kong soaps.

    Reply
  • August 1, 2011 at 1:52 pm
    Permalink

    I guess Taiwanese shows are a little more conservative than Hong Kong. I remember watching a lot of Hong Kong TV shows in the late 90s to early 00’s. There were quite a lot of one-nite stands and notions of casual sex there (though nothing graphic of course).

    Reply
  • August 1, 2011 at 7:13 pm
    Permalink

    Taiwanese Idol Dramas – most of the time they are over the top, if you know what i mean.
    Hong Kong Dramas – if you’re into serious stuff, this is it
    Korean Dramas – they are a cross between Taiwanese Idol dramas & Hong Kong dramas.
    Then there’s the cross straits tv dramas, which i think have a much better story lines.

    Reply
  • August 2, 2011 at 7:54 am
    Permalink

    ‘Virginal, never-been-kissed’…pffft. Are you sure you’re talking about real Chinese girls here? I think this only applies to dramas, at least nowadays…

    Reply
  • August 3, 2011 at 5:42 am
    Permalink

    you’re talking about ladies in the 1930-60s…

    it’s a different era these days…. sex run rampant with the young… every one wanting to be ‘sexy’ or look titilating for the opposite sex.

    Reply
  • August 3, 2011 at 1:14 pm
    Permalink

    “Much of this spirit is in turn borrowed from Korean soap operas”

    someone needs to learn her movie industry history.

    history lesson..

    It’s more likely japan that started this corny movie styles then come hong kong and Taiwan (most Chinese film makers left China when the communist took over), and then Korea. The first film makers in Asia was started in China during the high days of Shanghai.

    Reply
  • August 3, 2011 at 9:25 pm
    Permalink

    I’m watching HK soap opera last week for entertainment. It’s very fun to chase one chapter after another one.

    Reply
  • August 4, 2011 at 7:30 pm
    Permalink

    I ended up watching some Chinese soap operas on the internet, and boy did I get hooked. It is different, and I rather liked the more conservative approach to the issue of sex. I find it interesting that basically the female leads were all barely been kissed types. The males were often more distant and played hard to get. “Fated to Love You” is at the top of my list. Also funny how the plot to these soaps aren’t as sophiscated as what you would see in the west, but I enjoyed every minute of the ones I did watch. Hoping to see a sequel to “Fated to Love You.”

    Reply
  • August 5, 2011 at 7:54 am
    Permalink

    I LOVE Taiwanese dramas!!! I have been watching them for years. I also thought things were very conservative and clean…but some of them DO get a bit naughty-Like Devil Beside You, The Rose(one of my FAVS), ISWAK2. I am currently watching Drunken to Love You. This one started off naughty, and I am thinking it’s because the characters are meant to be older then some of the other dramas(more like late 20’s as opposed to college age in most other dramas). I even got my poor boyfriend to watch some dramas with me(strangely it was a KOREAN drama, Secret Garden)and now HE likes Asian dramas too!! 🙂 I have always joked with him that he is Zhi Xiu from ISWAK, b/c he is that dry and sometimes rude-like how he always tells Xiang Qin she is dumb-Yup, that’s us! haha!

    Reply
  • August 5, 2011 at 4:32 pm
    Permalink

    Rebekah! I loved “Devil Beside You” ended up overly tired chasing that soap to the end.

    Reply
  • August 5, 2011 at 7:36 pm
    Permalink

    This may come as a shock, but I never once watched a Taiwanese drama. =o! Maybe I should check them out. =O)

    By the way, I changed my url for my blog.

    Reply
  • August 9, 2011 at 10:48 am
    Permalink

    “And then they Kiss again” had a pretty intense sex scene. But then again, they were married so different perspective I guess.

    Reply
  • August 16, 2011 at 1:08 pm
    Permalink

    In reference to your point 2 “Sex is serious stuff”. I think China sexual attitude and Love (爱) is very different from what people perceived. I am a average looking Chinese guy that grew up in the states. Through out high school I hang more with the “nerd” crowd. I would say my success with girls in the States is marginal at best. However once in China I feel like superman. It is the only time in my life where girls would come to me. After numerous affairs after meeting the girls for 1 date, I began to realize that girls in China is a lot more open than the image that they put across. These girls range from some very wealthy business associate to student that “wants to learn English” to different employee of the factories I work with in China. But that definitely ties in with point 1, perceived wealth.

    Reply
  • August 17, 2011 at 3:12 am
    Permalink

    My sister is a big fan of Taiwanese idol drama but i found them way too cliche. but i agree with your point total, and on top that there are always going to be accidents/cancer that cripple one of them and suicide/”oh i am your brother” are common plot twist.
    wait…that sounds like K-drama…

    Reply
  • August 24, 2011 at 2:28 pm
    Permalink

    Let me tell you, those dramas have no portrayal on how the current generation acts. It’s way to PG13.

    In reality, guys and girls hook up all the time. I know many Chinese friends, both male and female, who have one night stands, hookups and friends with benefits ( I always have to listen to their latest drama :/)

    Reply
  • December 12, 2012 at 4:24 pm
    Permalink

    I get what you mean, but you know many of these dramas are based on Japanese mangas. They are ‘Idol’ shows so they are quite far-fetched from reality like the modern not-so-realistic realistic fairy tale xD

    Reply
  • Pingback:鸡肋般的成人童话 | 胡思乱想

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.