A coming-of-age story is a genre of film and literature which focuses on the growth of a protagonist from youth to adulthood.
In Chinese dramas, a typical coming-of-age story starts when the characters are in their secondary school, then during university, and ends when they become working adults.
While in real-life it is rare to have the same body size from your teenage years into adulthood, some of these Chinese drama characters even have the same hairstyles throughout the years.
Nonetheless, most Chinese coming-of-age dramas manage to capture the real essence of growing up from their teenage years to adulthood in an Asian country.
Although these dramas are set in China, some of the conflicts and inner struggles that these characters experience are relatable, especially if you are from a typical conservative Asian household.
One example is how some of the characters are advised to get “real jobs” like becoming a doctor or lawyer.
While the main storyline is typically about the love story between two main characters, these Chinese coming-of-age dramas also showcase how good friendships can grow over the years.
In real life, some of us still do keep in touch with our high school friends.
If you are looking for heartwarming Chinese coming-of-age dramas, here are eight of them that made it to our list:
1.A Love So Beautiful (2017)
Based on the novel To Our Pure Little Beauty by Zhao Qianqian, this Chinese coming-of-age drama stars Hu Yitian and Shen Yue.
It circles around Chen Xiaoxi and Jiang Chen who are classmates in high school and neighbours since they were in kindergarten.
Their characters are polar opposites. Chen Xiaoxi has a cheerful personality but does not study much, while Jiang Chen is the popular kid known for his good looks and high grades.
After losing his father at an early age, Jiang Chen becomes very distant towards people.
Despite this, Xiaoxi still expresses her crush towards Jiang Chen.
The story also follows their friends, a swimmer Wu Bosong, a tomboy Lin Jingxiao and Lu Yang, who has heart disease.
Even until when they are in university, Xiaoxi still crushes on Jiang Chen. Will Jiang Chen’s heart finally soften?
What happen to them when they finally made it into adulthood?
Like many other coming-of-age, A Love is So Beautiful focuses about these characters discovering themselves and their places in the world.
2.Rush to The Dead Summer (2017)
Starring Chen Xuedong, Zheng Shuang and Bai Jingting, the drama is based on Guo Jingming’s novel of the same name.
After winning a scholarship, Li Xia earns her place at Qian Chuan secondary school. There, she meets the two popular boys Fu Xiaosi and Lu Zhiang.
She also befriends a boyish girl named Yu Jian and the rich girl in school, Cheng Qiqi.
After they graduate, things seem to go fine, at least for some of them. Li Xia starts to date Xiaosi who is now a famous artist. Meanwhile, Qiqi becomes a celebrity after winning a singing competition.
Then, comes death, and betrayal after betrayal. Can their friendships survive all these hardships?
This Chinese coming-of-age drama was praised for its realistic life of youth and on campus as well as beautiful cinematography. Hence, it is definitely worth watching.
3.With You (2016)
Speaking of realistic portrayal of youth, here is another Chinese coming-of-age drama that received high reviews.
Hailed as ‘best youth drama’ by critics in recent years, the drama tackles issues relatable to viewers such as family problems, school struggles as well as the ups and downs of friendships.
One of the most realistic scenes in the drama is when the students draw lots to answer objective questions during the exam. (Raise your hand if you did that in your high school years.)
It follows the story of Geng Geng (Seven Tan) who just move into Zhen Hua High School and is seated next to top student Yu Huai (Liu Haoran).
Unlike her who struggles in her studies, Yu Huai is the smart kid in class.
At first, the duo fights a lot but soon become friends. They also become close friends with the rest of their classmates, each of whom has their own interesting background stories.
However, things start to change after graduation when Yu Huai ghosts everyone in the group.
This drama gives a great reminder that even though high school memories might be sweet to look back on but there is not much to it other than memories. Sometimes, you just need to let go of your past in order to enjoy the present.
With You (2016) is based on the novel The Best of Us by Ba Yue Chang An.
4.My Huckleberry Friends (2017)
Here is another Chinese coming-of-age drama based on a novel by Ba Yue Chang An entitled Hello, Old Times.
The story starts when Yu Zhou Zhou starts her first day of primary school and becomes friend with a boy named Lin Yang.
Something happens and the two start to drift apart.
They meet up again during high school. At first there is an obvious awkwardness between them but soon they begin to reconcile.
It starts Li Landi and Zhang Xincheng as Zhou Zhou and Lin Yang respectively.
5.When We Were Young (2018)
If you spent your high school days in the 90s, you might enjoy this drama.
It is a story that revolves around high school students in the year 1996.
While chasing down a bike thief during the summer break, Yang Xi gets injured after a nearby lab explosion. This caused her unable to compete in a long-distance run.
When her school opens, she finds out that the culprit behind the lab explosion has transferred to her class. His name is Hua Biao and he even takes Yang Xi’s position as the class president.
Hua Biao is also known to be a hot-blooded genius.
Since the drama is set in the 90s, expect a lot of retro vibes in it from the hairstyle to 90s furniture and appliances.
6.Just An Encore (2019)
Yan Ze and Xi Ye are two best friends. Yan Ze does not see herself as beautiful and her grades are just okay. Meanwhile, Xi Ye is known in school for her beauty and grades.
Yan Ze has a secret crush on Ji Xiao who is the top student in school and unfairly handsome too.
She grows jealous of Xi Ye when she discovers that Ji Xiao might like Xi Ye. Then, another person comes into the love triangle, He Xin Liang.
He is the transfer student who always appears by Yan Ze’s side whenever she needs help.
Xi Ye, however, has a crush on Xin Liang.
Little that Yan Ze knows that her best friend Xi Ye is secretly jealous of her for her friendliness and how easy she gets along with everyone.
Remember those days when you do not have to worry about work or bill but only crushes and fights with your best friend?
7.All I want For Love is You (2019)
Gu Xiao Man is nothing like your average high school girl. She is a sanda (Chinese kickboxing) fighter. While she excels in sports, Xiao Man struggles with her grades.
Lucky for her, her crush, who also happens to be the school’s top student Zuo An (Liu Yu Han), is willing to tutor her.
To impress her crush (and improve her grades), Xiao Man is willing to study hard.
Thanks to Zuo An’s help, Xiao Man not only manage to graduate but she gets into the same university as Zuo An.
Their story continues in university as the duo adjusts to campus life together.
8.Le Coup De Foudre (2019)
This Chinese coming-of-age drama is based on the novel I Don’t Like This World, I Only Like You by Qiao Yi.
It has uplifting life lessons and a heartwarming storyline. In 35 episodes, it manages to cover various themes such as the impact of divorce on the children, the preference for sons in China, domestic violence, and the real struggles of startups.
Do not expect perfect main characters who could never go wrong in this drama as they rise and fall throughout this story.
It follows the story of Zhao Qiaoyi, a kind-hearted but timid girl and Yan Mo, a quiet and extremely disciplined boy who excels in his studies.
Qiaoyi has a twin brother, Zhao Guanchao who is an easygoing person but hides a secret pain from his past. Their circle of friends is joined by Hao Wuyi, a tomboyish girl who loves to write and Fei Dachuan, a tough-looking but kind guy.
There are plenty of realistic and relatable moments in the drama. Wuyi, for instance, is told off by her class teacher, Teacher Gao to let go of writing and focus to find ‘a real job that actually pays the bills’. As it turns out, Teacher Gao himself let go of his dream to become a musician and chose to become a teacher instead.
If we were to pick our must-watch drama from this list, it has to be Le Coup de Foudre (2019).