5 Reasons to Check Out Chinese Drama The Story of Ming Lan

What do you get when you take the awesome actress from Shan Shan Comes to Eat, pair her with her real-life husband, throw in some smart and savvy, and stir in the inner-workings of a minor official’s home?  You get the story of Ming Lan! Kdrama Jen has been begging the fangirls to watch with her. Read on to see if her 5 Reasons to Watch will convince you!

So… I think I have watched more Chinese dramas this year than Kdramas.  One of the reasons is because I adore resourceful and smart characters. They can be good, bad, or kind of grey, but as long as I understand their motivation and they keep me on my toes, then I will likely fall for them.  The Story of Ming Lan is full of amazing characters like this!  So, I start my list with this reason:

Beautifully Developed Characters

There will be people you hate and there will be people you love in this drama.  There will also be people you think you don’t like, but then they surprise you. I think this drama does an exceptional job of helping viewers see many different perspectives and developing even minor characters in ways that enrich the overall story.  Also, just like in life, there is nobody depicted who is perfect. Despite taking place in another time and place, the emotions of the characters are relatable. I also can understand the motivation of every character. I may not agree with their actions, but I do understand why they are responding in that way.  For me, that is the hallmark of an excellent writer. I don’t have to like the character, but I do have to understand them.

Smart and Strong Women

You might think in this patriarchal settings that the men have all the power.  That is certainly not the case on this drama. Almost every plot point is moved forward because of the machinations and actions of women.  I love seeing Ming Lan use her intelligence to problem-solve, but I also find all of the maneuvering of the mothers of various daughters and sons to be absolutely fascinating!  Women hold an alternate power that is making me rethink some of my earlier assumptions.

Unique Premise


I am having a hard time describing why, but this drama has a different feel to it.  It is the first Chinese drama I have watched that has all of the harem politicking we might see in Yanxi Palace or another palace harem drama, but because this is a minor official’s home, we see a different perspective.  I have said it before, but it is almost like a slice-of-life kind of view. Kmuse said it’s kind of like Downton Abbey, but with concubines. It is a fascinating glimpse into the power dynamics of a minor official’s home and raises questions about who really holds the influence.  Is the man really in charge of his household or is it his mother?

The OTP!!!

I must admit, the reason I started watching is because I love Shan Shan and I wanted to see her in a drama with her real-life husband.  Then, I started watching and I kind of fell into SLS (second lead syndrome). The second lead is handsome, kind, and thoughtful. At the time, I was comparing him to the guy who came back to town with a mistress and two kids.  That would normally be a deal-breaker for me, but I am telling you, Gu TingGe won me over! Their chemistry is incredible, but the two characters truly understand one another. He sees Ming Lan for who she really is and he is equally as smart!  Just wait until you see all that he does to try to win her over.

Plot Movement by Polo (Thanks, Mehitable)

It fascinates me that a game of polo is used as a plot movement device several times throughout this drama.  I love how it is used to being about some major changes and shifts in the story arc, just as polo was once used in China as a way to make important decisions.  It is this attention to historical detail that has me enjoying Story of Ming Lan in a cerebral and scholarly way in addition to simply enjoying the way everyone tries to outmaneuver one another.

So, there you have it!  I have given you five reasons to watch Story of Ming Lan, but really you just need to dive in and discover your own reasons to keep watching. Please comment below to let us know if you have it a try and share your thoughts!

Until next time…

Kdrama Jen

Dramas With a Side of Kimchi

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9 thoughts on “5 Reasons to Check Out Chinese Drama The Story of Ming Lan

  1. I’m loving Ming Lan as well. I generally hate harem politics stories but this one is so much more. So much more – flipped! Things that I’d only seen happen to female characters in other shows (forced to marry because of an insane love from a more powerful partner, etc.) have happened to males (the cute but weak Young Master Qi Heng) and things that I’d only seen male characters do (court politics from behind the scenes by discounted older characters) have been done by females (the Dowager Empress) – and so on. Wow!

    There are also such great friendships, some great families, some terrible families, some true loves and some infatuations. It’s just so real and understandable. No funky religions, cults or prophecies. Just life.

    Some day, I hope the Kimchi Fangirls can compare this to Nothing Gold Can Stay – another slice-of-life Chinese historical drama.

  2. Will really miss this drama. Its true that the characters pull you in to their world. I’m also really impressed by the Chinese selections over kdramas now too. Hope this year we get more of them like Minglan and Ning Que from Ever Night and Ye Hua from Ten miles of peach blossoms

  3. I second all of the above and am so glad that I did not stop watching it back when I got so mad at GTY for having kids outside of marriage with that nasty woman as I had no idea back then how they could redeem him and have his character be the main lead but am so thankful I persevered. This has been one of my favorite c-dramas of all time and am stalking Viki for new episodes and watching it raw trying to figure out what is going to happen next. I was also wrong when I thought in the beginning it would be slow moving as this drama has again proven me wrong and even though it seems not much happens and not much action it still manages to keep me on the edge of my seat. I am just hoping for a happy ending 🙂

  4. I started out thinking this was “low rent” as I had just finished Yanxi and it’s great costumes…but by ep. 2 or 3, I was seriously hooked. Really love this drama!

  5. I have to say, too, that for a show that has such a late romance with the OTP, the pacing is amazing. There’s a lot going on, and it isn’t one big epic goal, but many small and mid-sized crises that drive the plot. It feels exciting and yet slice of life at the same time.

  6. I was never into cdrama, especially modern one, because they tend to have either dumb, but cute or damsel in perpetual distress main characters and I find this to be extremely boring. I’m glad that I followed the hype for both Yanxi Palace and Ming Lan, as they have one of the most badass, resourceful and loyal leads that I’ve in the past few years. I have to admit that the first 10 eps of Ming Lan were slow for me and I could’t wait for Gu TingGe turn into a real contender for Ming Lan’s heart.

  7. Wonderfully potent stuff. This is great after Yanxi. The pace may seem slow at first but its a slow burn kinda thing. The dialogue is witty with so many ways to throw shade! I likened this to something from Regency England in the socially stratified world of Jane Austen’s romances. Like Austen’s heroines, Minglan is smart, observant and very very good at looking like she’s part of the wallpaper when her brain is actually ticking overtime, absorbing information and strategising. Love the camerawork too. It’s never obtrusive and makes the viewer feel as if they were a discreet part of the scene, observing like a fly on the wall. The lighting at first bothered me, particularly night scenes but I got used to it and I think it adds to the authenticity of the time. Sure, compared to Yanxi’s lovely costuming and details, this feels a bit of a budget production. But everything else really works for me. I’m glad I did not give up despite the earlier slow pace of the first few episodes. And yes, C-dramas are really catching more of my attention than K-dramas, which seem to have fallen into a bit of a formulaic rut.

    • I am so glad you enjoyed Ming Lan! Yes, Kmuse and I constantly chatted about how this felt a bit like a Jane Austen or Regency romance. It took a while for it to really gain momentum, but I too just fell in love with the characters and their stories. In a bit of a contrast to the “quiet, yet extremely intelligent” Ming Lan, we are currently watching and podcapping Legends. The main female character is bold and jaded; she is extremely focused on revenge. I am completely in love with her. It is so different from Ming Lan, but it is another Chinese drama that is just keeping me coming back for more! Thank you for sharing your insights!

      -Kdrama Jen

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