Top 20 picks for the best wuxia

I grew up watching TV adaptations of Jin Yong and Gu Long novels, two brilliant authors who have created a world of wuxia that has captivated so many till this day and unsurprisingly, a lot of their works make my top 20.

The dramas below are not in any order because it's simply too difficult to choose except for my number one pick which deserves the top spot.

# 1 Nirvana in Fire (Lang Ya Bang)

Nirvana in Fire Lang Ya Bang

Nirvana in Fire is the best c-drama and I still stand by it. It doesn't matter if one man's unyielding thirst for revenge is not your cup of tea because it's worth the watch. Even though NIF is the type of show where each and every character is integral, Hu Ge in the titular role of Mei Changsu certainly deserves the limelight. 

# 2 Heavenly Sword and Dragon Sabre (Yi Tian Tu Long Ji)
Alec Su in Heavenly Sword and Dragon Sabre (2003)
Due to the fight over the heavenly sword and dragon saber, a young boy becomes orphaned and on the brink of death, yet he encounters extraordinary circumstances that pave his way to become a martial arts hero.

The 2003 version above is a personal favorite where almost everyone is perfect for the part, especially Alec Su and Jia Jing Wen who had amazing chemistry together.

Sun Xing in Heavenly Sword and Dragon Sabre (1993)
Heavenly Sword and Dragon Sabre (2003)
Yet I say almost because the 1993 version starring Sun Xing as the morally ambiguous Yang Xiao is irreplaceable (left). Sun Xing really would have fit the bill in the 2003 version but alas, the role went to Zhang Tie Shan (right). 

# 3 Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils (Tian Long Ba Bu) 

Tian Long Ba Bu classic Jin Yong Wuxia, chinese drama withdrawal syndrome

Qiao Feng, Duan Yu and Xu Zhu form a pact to become blood brothers. The 1997 version above is one of many adaptations, not to mention the movie version starring Brigitte Lin, Gong Li and Sharla Cheung, which you can watch here.

# 4 The Return of the Condor Heroes (Shen Diao Xia Lv)


Return of the Condor Heroes takes the cake for the most romantic wuxia about the forbidden love between Yang Guo and his martial arts teacher, Little Dragon Girl (Xiao Long Nu).

Yang Guo is a good guy often branded as a bad guy but then again, I've always had a soft spot for misunderstood heroes...



Xiao Long Nu on the other hand is a martial arts expert known for her ethereal beauty, which is why casting her can be quite a challenge. Above are Carman Lee, Fann Wong, Crystal Liu and Michelle Chen, four most recent actresses who played the iconic character. 

# 5 Xiao Shi Yi Lang
Xiao Shi Yi Lang 2002 starring Nicky Wu and Athena Chu

If you like Jin Yong's Return of the Condor Heroes, then you might like Gu Long's equivalent depicting a forbidden romance between a bandit and a lady in a convoluted world of martial arts where the gentleman preaching chivalry and honor are the same hypocrites who disregard it.

# 6 Royal Tramp / Duke of Mountain Deer (Lu Ding Ji)

Lu Ding Ji Duke of Mountain Deer, Dicky Cheung best wuxia 2000 drama withdrawals


This is the comedic one out of the bunch of Jin Yong novels. Wei Xiao Bao may be a gallivanting womanizer but he is a true hero nonetheless, willing to sacrifice his life for the sake of his country.

# 7 Flying Daggers (Fei Dao You Jian Fei Dao) 


Filled with a tinge of melancholy for good reason, Flying Daggers is about Li Huai, a kind-hearted man who loves unconditionally yet the woman he loves is determined to avenge her father at all costs.

# 8 The Legend of the Condor Heroes (She Diao Ying Xiong Zhuan)

Legend of the Condor Heroes, Ariel Lin, classic wuxia Jin Yong, c-drama withdrawal syndrome
This is the prequel to the Return of the Condor Heroes, which adds great insight into the Jin Yong verse especially relative to the Condors Trilogy.

# 9 Swordsman (Xiao Ao Jiang Hu)

Wallace Huo as the Swordsman 2013, drama withdrawals best wuxia

Swordsman is the last of my favorites in the classic wuxia category and similar to the rest, it emphasizes Confucianism teachings such as filial piety, moral values and honor, telling the story of a martial arts student who discovers for himself that the lines between good and evil are often blurred.

From here onwards, the list goes on to include a variety of period dramas.

# 10 A Step Into the Past

A Step Into the Past, fusion wuxia best time travel, hk tv series, drama withdrawal syndrome Louis Koo
An old TVB drama about a cop who travels back to the Qin Dynasty. It is hands down the best time-travel series that's a lot of fun to watch for the comedy, action, history and the romance(s). 

# 11 Princess Weiyoung
Princess Weiyoung Episode 10
A princess is forced to take on a new identity after losing her home and her country. Rather than an epic revenge, expect an epic romance that has all the common historical drama tropes you can think of, but done so well that it took the country by storm. 

# 12 The Prince of Lan Ling (Lan Ling Wang)
If you can laugh off the cheesiness, Lan Ling Wang is a wholesome historical drama with romance, heroism, humor and action all rolled into one. The best part is that it is not a novel adaptation so it's nice not to know the plot for a change.

# 13 My Fair Princess 

This is practically a soap opera with loads of tears and fist pounding moments. Nevertheless, the show is highly addictive or it wouldn't have made the careers of three very successful women - Fan Bing Bing, Ruby Lin and Zhao Wei.

# 14 Treasure Venture (Xia Nu Chuang Tian Guan)

Treasure Venture Zhao Wei Nicky Wu 2000, best wuxia drama withdrawal syndrome

Shui Ruo Han comes into Lu Jian Ping's life with the sole intention of stealing the Divine Book by any means necessary. Nicky Wu from Xiao Shi Yi Lang plays the lead once again and I loved it just the same since he's pretty much clinched the role of tortured hero down to a tee. 


Li Xiao Yao Chinese Paladin 1, Crystal Liu as Zhao Ling Er, Hu Ge Ady An Crystal Liu, best wuxia fantasy chinese drama withdrawal
Chinese Paladin 1 is the first of a barrage of fantasy wuxias dominating the genre, revolving around Xiao Yao, a gifted swordsman, Zhao Ling Er, a descendant of the Nu Wa goddess and their group of friends whose young love and earnest passion end up saving the people from the evil clutches of the Lunar Sect Cult. 

It is so beautiful that I want to watch it regardless of the plot. Nevertheless, these productions, most of which are produced by Tangren Media, complete my top 20.

# 16 Monster Killer

Monster Killer Wu Xin Fa Shi
Monster Killer is underrated but so well-made especially with a premise that aptly puts it under the category of a live action anime. For what it's worth, the special effects actually look decent and that's a compliment.

# 17 Sound of the Desert (Da Mo Yao)



Liu Shi Shi must choose between Hu Ge and Eddie Peng, enough said. 

# 18 Sword of Legends (Gu Jian Qi Tan)

Sword of Legends is far from perfect but it sure started strong, introducing Baili Tusu, an intriguing character who is just a man trying his best to remain good despite his literal inner demons, making him the underdog that you just have to root for.

# 19 Scarlet Heart (Bu Bu Jing Xin)

Startling By Each Step 2011, Liu Shi Shi Nicky Wu, best wuxia, drama withdrawals
A modern day office worker time travels to Qing Dynasty and lives to see history unfolding before her eyes. It sounds run of the mill but quite the opposite given the calibre of talent that has been poured into this drama and it pays off tremendously, even inspiring the k-drama remake Scarlet Heart Ryeo.

# 20 Strange Hero Yi Zhi Mei

Liu Shi Shi Wallace Huo, 2011 best wuxia, chinese drama withdrawals
A group of misfits band together to fight for justice. This is a wuxia-style Robin Hood that is visually stylized to read like a comic book. It's basically like Return of Iljimae though now I'm confused. Is he Korean or Chinese? No fan wars please. 

Rate your favorite dramas below.
Chinese period dramas
Korean period dramas

52 comments:

  1. I've seen everything on this list except for Flying Daggers, Lan Ling Wang, Duke of Mountain Deer, and Treasure Ventures!!

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    1. you have to watch duke of mountain deer (the dickey cheng version)! I've seen it 10x, literally! So many characters and so good!

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  2. is there any more i watched all of them already

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  3. wow seriously? maybe u can try 2015 serues, quite a lot of new ones.

    http://dramawithdrawals.blogspot.sg/2015/07/2015-best-wuxia-ancient-chinese-series.html

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  4. Hi! You seem like you have watched a lot of wuxia dramas.. I'm trying to find this wuxia/martial arts drama but I can't remember the title or even the plot, only a few scenes.. If you have watched anything similar to these scenes, can you please tell me? So, first, the male characters are not the half bald type (with braided hair). The female lead wears black/grey clothes/robes. I think I watched it in 2002/2003/2004. The female lead and male lead's swords glow..the female one glows pink and the male one is yellow. There was one scene where she stabbed the male with her sword (not sure if accidental or not) but nurse him back to health.
    There's also one scene where she went to visit her mum (?) in some place but her mum doesn't recognize her (maybe they were separated since young) but her mum's disciples (or villagers not sure but they were all girls) accused her of poisoning their village water and started to beat her with brooms and sticks but she didn't attack them back. Her mum then gave her a hat with veil to cover her face since her face was bruised from the beating.
    Another scene I remember is I think there was this king's seal/stamp or something that they have to protect from the bad people or something..but then the bad guy took some girl as hostage and ask to exchange with the stamp. The male lead was willing to exchange for the girl but she said no..but on the day when they were to exchange, she already had planned to steal it back as soon as they got the girl. Oh yea, the male and female's swords are like if they combine and attack, it's really powerful or something.
    Another one is I'm not sure if I recall correctly but even though I don't really remember the female lead character's name..but I think they call her princess (like dragon princess?).
    I know these scenes are quite vague and could fit in many dramas..but if you have watched anything with these scenes, can you please reply? I would be very grateful 'cause I can't seem to find it no matter what.

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    1. Okay, I just remembered something else, the female lead was poisoned at some part and became blind temporarily.

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    2. sorry i don't remember anything like that. Tho there is only 1 drama i remember where the female lead wears black, and her name is dragon lady and the male characters are NOT the half bald braided type. But other than that the rest of the scenes don't seem to fit so it's probably not what your looking for? here's the link just in case. http://www.letv.com/tv/75275.html?ref=baiduletv

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    3. Oh, thanks for your reply. Yea, I don't think that's the one..but can you tell me the english title for the one you sent me? I can't read chinese.. x.x
      But, anyways, thanks a lot. Hopefully, I'll be able to find it somehow. Haha.

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    4. the one i sent is the 1998 version of the Return of the Condor Heroes. Lol yea good luck. I am curious though why they'd have yellow and pink swords I'm envisioning a light saber=P

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    5. Oh..thanks. (: Haha, it's exactly like that, light saber. But then,I cant remember correctly, I saw it on TV when I was like 6 or 7.. maybe it's not a popular series? *sigh*

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    6. How about The Legendary Twins?

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    7. Crimson sabre?

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    8. I think it's Treasure Raiders (Xiao Shi Yi Lang) 2002 starred by Nicky Wu and Athena Chu. There's a scene when Shen Bi Jun (Athena Chu) stabbed Xiao Shi Yi Lang's chest with her sword. And Shen Bi Jun is kidnapped by Little Master and used as pawn to trap Xiao Shi Yi Lang. She is saved time and again by Xiao Shi Yi Lang and they eventually fall in love, despite her being a married woman.
      Please check this trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ArMudiCKfDs
      The new version of Xiao Shi Yi Lang's (2015) Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQAhlDdz1vA

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    9. HI i rly need your help i'm trying to find this Ancient China tv series that I watched ages ago (like almost 8 years) but i can't rmb the name. The plot revolves around a girl who is actually a princess of the previous Chinese dynasty but she ends up falling in love with the emperor of the current dynasty(?) if you know what it is please tell me thank you!! (:

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    10. hi anonymous this one i might actually know .. http://wiki.d-addicts.com/My_Bratty_Princess

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    11. Hey, I've finally found the one I was looking for. It's called Xue Hua Nu Shen Long (Snow flower). Have you watched it before? If you know anywhere I can watch with english subtitles, please tell me. (:

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    12. May you have share the same fate as I. Snow Flower or 雪花女神龙 / Xue Hua Nu Shen Long,  I watched this in my childhood , six grade, 2006 and have been trying for months to find this show coz I don't know the title or plot or characters or casts so well. I spent half a day searched for it then I stopped. Then one day, tonight, as I was searching about an hour my hands is hurting from tapping on laptop, I thought oh that main girl I remember has a hair band looks like that one girl who is a sister plays in one of Tang Yan's drama. I searched Tang Yan, selected Unbeatable drama, then clicked on Dong Xuan, then on her lists of drama I finally found this. Going through the Wuxia list on Wikipedia turns out it wasn't even in Wikipedia. But I found it nevertheless, It is like a miracle. I don't know or who to tell this ground breaking finding to. So i am here commenting. Too bad this show isn't in English sub. My luck is still bad. I can't find any site to watch this with subs. Please tell?

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    13. wow now I'm super curious about Snow Flower, haven't seen or heard of it before but as it is an older drama odds are it won't be subbed anywhere :(

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  5. It's neither legendary twins nor crimson sabre..
    And, for treasure raiders, that's not the one I was looking for but I just remembered that I watched that too..I just didn't know the title. Thank you all for replying.

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  6. If anyone of your guys know the links of the romane of the condor heroes ( 2014 ver.) with eng sub, please do share me or let me know! Thanks! :-)
    #chue [email protected]

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    1. I watch it on Youtube.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2Qd4p4Ptzg&list=PLXGkQKqoTJ1JPze648tQnAtvqbTTiXuZs&index=2

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    2. thanks a lot! but it can't be downloaded. However, thanks for your reply !
      #chue

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    3. actually just learned u can download stuff from dramacool.com u can try?

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  7. oh ! I extremely thank you ! That link u mentioned is the best I've ever seen. All are in eng sub,hd version and not much space. There are so many different movies. Thanks a lot ! thank again and again :) <3
    #chue

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  8. SIK Siu-Lung movie

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOQjkU8eoM8

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  9. Thank you for your posting. It really help me to mesmerize about my childhood. I grew up in Burma with all of these TV shows.

    By the way, are you from China? I am just curious about your bio and how you grew up with all of these wuxia? It must have been a lot of time to watch all of these. :)

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    1. Haha yes i spend way too much time watching tv. Watched most of these growing up in the Philippines actually :) thanks for visiting my blog

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    2. I think you should make a Wuxia fun club! So that people can join your activities and hang out with all the people with similar interest. I am sure I can give a visit to your club for at least a few times. :)

      I always come back to your blog for recommendation when my uni is closed here in Belgium. I guess Wuxia just still amaze me even these days.

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  10. Thanks for posting this fantastic rank. The number one drama and the version of 2003 is undoubtedly my favorite. I love Zhao Min played by Jia, such a gorgeous and smart girl who is my dream lover. I totally agree with your opinion!!!

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    1. Thanks! Been planning to amend the list with Nirvana in Fire, a very good c-drama but can't decide which one to bump off. You should watch it if u haven't yet:)

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  11. Hi! Since you've watched a lot of Chinese dramas, I'm trying to find the drama that I watched back in early 2000s (around the same time as Madame White Snake I think). This is a period drama but not with the Kings/ queens, just sword fighters or whatever you call them. And I remember there being a lot of scenes in the snow and the mountains. I only remember the ending.. So this girl has been poisoned and the only cure was by eating this fruit ( the plant produces only one fruit every seven years) and this plant has to be watered with alcohol. This girl is on a hideout in the snow mountains with her lover). So the day comes nearer for the fruit to be fully ripe but some old friends (I think) come visit them. While they were chatting, this girl who came with the visitors saw the plant in the garden and thought it was wilting so she watered it with water.. And it died. Thus, the poisoned girl cannot get her cure and she died in her lover's arms. What could this drama be???

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    1. trying something new where I re-post your question coz I don't know what that drama is my best guess is Fox Volant of the Snowy Mountains but only because you said snow mountains though I don't remember there being a part about poisoned fruit.

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    2. That is it Fox Volant of the Snowy Mountain based offor of the Shaw brothers Legend of the Fox

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  12. HI, I'm sorry that this has turned into a lost and found center, but your help is truly needed. I've watched this drama before the year of 2006, hence the memory loss. The male lead is a known idiot with a kind heart, but he's able to memorize a forbidden book from start to finish and become a recognizable fighter. The female lead on the other hand is very intelligent. She first cross dress as a guy when she first met the male lead but she revealed her identity the next day. She later became the Chief of Beggars' sect and carry the green shaft. I've been searching high and low for every drama that depicts the story of beggars sect with no luck. Truly wish you could help me with my search :/

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    1. wow. this is weird. I only came here after days of searching. After posting this, i continued my search and not long after, i found the image from the drama scenes. The drama was out in 2003 btw. Maybe there's a lucky charm from posting it here haha thanks!

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    2. lol if there was a like button I would click it coz that's pretty funny I'm glad you found it tho:)

      Was it Legend of Condor Heroes?

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  13. Thanks for the list.
    I just recently got back into Wuxia, and WOW did Nirvana in Fire blow me away. The production value, the acting, the plot, set pieces, cast. Each and every episode was a rollercoaster ride of emotions and suspense, and I had to watch it again right after finishing.

    Well deserved #1 spot on many lists.

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    1. glad you liked it happy whenever I see NIF spreading to a wider audience because it truly deserves it. U should try Disguiser when u have a chance not an wuxia though

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    2. Will definitely give it a go once I'm finished with the others.

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  14. My top all time is not here... The 2003 Condor Heroes is levels above in production story and cast. That and duke of my deer is top two all time for me. Will try NIF haven't been with the scene in awhile. Thanks!

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    1. Yes Duke of Mountain Deer and Condor Heroes definitely make this list. Hope you enjoy watching NIF:)

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  15. can u reccommend any wuxia drama similar to nirvana in fire?i really like this one...

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    1. hi challen.. try disguiser, it is really the most similar one to Nirvana in FIre but it's not an wuxia:)

      http://www.dramapanda.com/2016/03/disguiser.html

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  16. can u reccommend any wuxia drama similar to nirvana in fire?i really like this one...

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  17. Hmmm, personally I will never categorize Nirvana in Fire, Scarlet Heart/BBJX, My Fair Princess, Sound of Desert, Princess Weiyoung, Lan Ling Wang, A Step into the Past, or Wuxin the Monster Killer, as wuxia dramas. They are historical/period dramas. Other than those, I will include and put Legend of Condor Heroes 1982 on top of the list of wuxia dramas. The best wuxia dramas IMO are those from the 80s-90s. As for the recent ones, I'll add Border Town Prodigal. I'm quite hesitant to group the classical wuxia dramas with those with fantastical themes (aka xianxia) too.

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    1. hi caranita.. you're totally right. I actually wrote something on that as well about how wuxia is technically different from historical dramas and xianxia but like many others, I tend to lump it all together.

      I keep hearing about the 1980's Jin Yong adaptations, really curious to check it out once I find time. Do you know where I can watch it?

      As for recent ones.. there's sadly no awesome 'real wuxia' for me other than repeats of Jin Yong novels and even then, I'm liking it out of loyalty than anything else. I thought Border Town Prodigal would be really good, it was reminiscent of the good old wuxia days but my interest waned as the series progressed.

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  18. Can you please recommend me any chinese wuxia drama similar to Legend of Chusen?

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    1. Hi Ayusher.. you can try Journey of Flower and Ice Fantasy, both quite similar but personally I'd suggest a wuxia (less fantasy) called Legend of Condor Heroes which is airing now.

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