C-drama Word of Honor Adapted from BL Novel is Biggest Hit of 2021 So Far as Production Agencies Rush to Air Completed Adaptations to Capitalize on the Craze

The early 2021 rumor that Chinese authorities were going to tamp down on C-dramas adopted from Chinese BL novels (boy love novels or 耽美 which means indulging in beauty) have proven not to happen as this year’s biggest hit so far 3 months in is wuxia drama Word of Honor (山河令 Shan He Ling or Mountain River Order) adapted from the BL novel 天涯客 or Faraway Wanderers. This is the most high profile BL novel adaptation since the 2019 drama The Untamed which catapulted leads Xiao Zhan and Wang Yibo into the drama A-list. Word of Honor stars Zhang Zhe Han and Gong Jun who honestly seems to cosplay their own version of The Untamed duo with the flirty fire and grumpy ice dynamic. This drama is SOOOOO popular that C-ent is saying over a dozen BL novel adaptations in the words are rushing to air to capitalize on the bromance trend, and it really is that. WoH as with all BL novel adaptions does not openly acknowledge the two male leads in a romantic affection or relationship but uses the traditional wuxia bromance (i.e. 兄弟情) and plays coy with it because the overarching narrative has enemies and past trauma that both need to overcome and they do it together. The best analogy of what’s happening I can describe is Frodo and Sam in Lord of the Rings and their journey to Mordor, if the in the novel they were gay and loved each other as soulmate partners but the movie showed the love but without the romantic subtext to get past the censors. Chinese television whether airing or streaming does not allow true BL stories but this raging popularity of BL novels adopted into wink-wink BL-adjacent dramas has me scratching my head because I don’t get why. Either a viewer loves watching two men love each other so adapt the novel as is (totally cool, and two girls too, but sadly the BL market is like 99% larger than any GL consumption) or don’t and find different source material, because it does feel rather silly to see dramas take BL novel stories and then remove the over BL to just keep the two leads as super duper best friends. Anyhoo, I love seeing diversity and also less C-censorship so this is worth noting as a huge trend in C-ent right now. And sadly this does not work the other way, as I said BL novels/manga is a huge fanbase with majority women but no analogous GL adaptations or mainstream adoption.


C-drama Word of Honor Adapted from BL Novel is Biggest Hit of 2021 So Far as Production Agencies Rush to Air Completed Adaptations to Capitalize on the Craze — 25 Comments

  1. Pingback: C-drama Word of Honor Adapted from BL Novel is Biggest Hit of 2021 So Far as Production Agencies Rush to Air Completed BL-novel Adaptations to Capitalize on the Craze - Kpopnchill - All About K-pop News

  2. I have enjoyed both Untamed and Word of honor. For me the relationship in Untamed, the series at least, went beyond male or female and it was more about being soulmates. Wen Kexing in WOH may feel like he’s the funny one, but once you start to see his past, that charade falls apart and you can see both leads are tortured by their past. I feel like if both Untamed and WOH were translated to the screen just like the book, it wouldn’t be the same. I enjoyed both novels, but I also liked things that they changed in the series. I wish there wouldn’t be censorship of course, but compared to other BLs in countries where there is no censorship, they just don’t feel the same. I don’t how to explain it. But hearing Wen Kexing say, I just want to find a soulmate and live the rest of my life in peace with him, it’s perfect and I love it. The scary part are the crazy fans who ship the actors, like it happened with Untamed and end up causing trouble.

  3. I am currently obsessed with Word of Honor. The actor’s chemistry is off the chart. Censorship or no censorship their romance is undeniable. I am enjoying this more than the Untamed. I have not skipped once watching this show. Everybody’s story is interesting and well acted. I even bought a VIP show I could catch up. That’s what a good drama makes me do. I hope Netflix picks it up so more people would discover it.

    • Tbh, I feel like we should also take into consideration how the BL market was in 2018. The untamed rlly did do it’s best to make the chemistry as much of a BL as they could. Xiao Zhan and Wang Yibo had great chemistry and we could tell that the relationship between WWX a and LWJ was more than a friendship. The Untamed was meant to be portrayed as a more pure and soulmate like love. They had heartfelt interactions that have so much depth, especially if you read the novel and know the full and uncensored context 🙂 I don’t think that we should be comparing the two dramas too much since they don’t have much to do with eachother and the stores are quite different. Maybe it’s cause I’m MDZS/CQL trash but I can’t get over the drama or chemistry much like others as well lol. I feel like we should be crediting The Untamed as well because if it wasn’t for the impact it made, I don’t think BL could have been as normalised as it is in China now (even though it’s barely much but it still did enough to have more touchy interactions happen in dramas like Word of Honor) I’m just happy that we could get a drama with more romantic scenes as people have come to accept BL more and it rides a lot on The Untamed :))

  4. The two of them are so fluffy and flirty together. Their relationship is beautiful and I love the little family dynamic that they have going on with CL and GX.

    For me, I think the drama is better than the novel because it delved deeper into their relationship and the plot is thicker this time.

    Though for the Untamed, I preferred the novel because the novel was just so so good. And as for 2HA, i’ve heard it’s showing next month and I hope the core of the novel stays true despite the censorship. I cried river of tears reading this and is definetely my top Chinese BL novel eventhough it is so emotionally draining.

  5. This drama is just soooooo beautiful. The actors, story, cinematography… just all so gorgeous. I am glad the drama got the attention it deserves. And to think, no promotion before it aired. The producer said she was just glad they even finished filming and didn’t expect this much popularity.

  6. This is my first BL drama.

    Look. At this point I just love the fast pace and the chemistry. No ditz needing constant rescuing like in a traditional OTP. I have been sick of idiotic, obsessed with male leads, helpless female leads in the other Cdramas. And no freaking materialistic comments about the richer older male leads. So many of those comments in my other Cdramas.

    Here at least each party is capable of looking after themselves. The other ” romantic ” lead just enriches their life but no one needs rescuing. Thank god.

    I am a bit sleep deprived after watching 17 episodes in 2 days. And that seriously is why I like this drama. The 2 leads are so good. I like the actor playing ZX.

    • His name is Zheng Ze Han, underrated actor. But things seems to be looking better for him since leaving Yu Zheng’s and joining Zhao Wei’s company.

  7. they are so pretty, it’s kind of weird to see them so beautiful. I mean, it just looks so good, I can watch them doing nothing. Sometimes I don’t pay attention to the plot, I was just in awe.

    • Yeah… they look like they just jumped out of the novel. That’s how good looking they are lol. Their costumes and the fighting scenes are also too notch.

  8. If there’s more male drama fans, we will probably have more GL stuff. Isn’t there a mainstream one coming tho? ‘Mirror’ or something, but it’s Yuzheng production and considering his scandal early this year who knows if it’ll ever get to see the light of the day.

  9. I enjoy this drama even so the voices of the actors are dubbed. As I am learning mandarin I watch for language comprehension. A higher level of language requires more idioms and also slang expressions and cultural references such as classical poems and historical dates. And this drama has all this incorporated in the story line in a very natural manner. This might originate from the novel or was incorporated by the screen writer. I read that the main actors did Ad-lip at times. Also the dialogue of the original actors is more risqué than the dubbed dialogue. There are discussions about their actual dialogue on Weibo and you tube.

    Also it is interesting to note that the ML came to the project late. The original leads were no longer available as the dates of the original shoot where postponed due to Covid.

    Why boy love stories are so popular in Chinese contemporary drama landscape is unclear

    One could imagine that stories that skirt around Breaking social norms aka gay behaviour is interesting. ( see – swearing in kids behaviour)
    Also as a political strategy. For instance censorship especially in regards of Buddhism /in the Ming dynasty was strong. You can see a rise of the domestic novel as “dream of the red chamber” which can be read as a critic on the political agenda of its time.

    • Homosexuality was not a taboo in traditional Chinese society. Pre-modern Chinese literature often contained homoerotic themes and many famous ancient Chinese figures are known for having such relationships.

      • Nor was it in Japan, India where it was tolerated and even accepted as normal.
        It was with the coming of the Western colonialists/marauders and the Christian missionaries that it got stigmatized and criminalized .

  10. There’s something about Chinese BL dramas (which includes the non-BL bromance dramas like Hikaru No Go, Cross Fire, Ultimate Note etc) that once you have fallen in love with them, there’s no going back. I don’t watch BG romance dramas anymore unless I’m a fan of the actors.
    Word of Honor is so good. The actors’ chemistry is on fire, and the wuxia plot is very intriguing as well.

  11. The Untamed and WOH is nothing a like. The costume, and scenery, and even the story is completely different so I wouldn’t compare them.

    The Untamed was good and the chemistry was also good, but it’s their off-screen interactions that infused the crazy fans.

    But the interesting thing about WOH chemistry is the opposite. The 2 male leads have CRAZY OFF THE CHART on-screen chemistry, but people wouldn’t ship them off-screen as they are very playful in a “bro” or just “friends” kind of way. And I think that’s how a veteran actors bring their characters to life. Other than the chemistry, the acting is also top notch, which is a very nice surprise. For an incredibly low and tight budget drama, their costumes and fight scenes are one of the best one out there.

    The romance is actually very romantic with the feel of old fashion romance. When you watch it, there was never any doubt that this was a romance drama. The flirting, the blatant innuendos, and the gestures and care for each other is even more romantic than all the kissy kiss dramas out there right now.

  12. I think the reason why WoH really doing well right now because they don’t try to mask the romance as ‘super duper best friend’. It’s more like watching a traditional romance drama with PG-13 rate cencorship, including the word love (which they change with soulmate) but with the chemistry of the two lead,you don’t really need that word anyway

  13. While I’m a huge fan of word of honor , I think the tag ” the biggest hit of the year ” is false.
    Doulou continent have not only surpassed 4.6 billion views but has the the highest viewership per day than every drama broadcasted this year …it also scored more than 3. In datawin .

    Madam Koala , I understand this might be your favorite drama but please don’t spread misinformation .

    I’m a c drama fan and the records are there for everyone to see.

    That said , while word of honor is quite a hit , I think immortality might be the blockbuster of the year.

    • I think Koala means biggest hit comparing to other BL drama in China and her/his tone of writing is very neutral (which I don’t think she/he is a big fan of WOH). Again, we all are subjective. To be honest, Doulou has this big viewership because it was aired in televisions. WOH has just finished with only online viewing on YouKu.

      I don’t know about the immortality and will not make any prediction. Good work will speak for itself.

  14. Never like BL or gay theme dramas yet World of Honor changes it all. Got to watch it because of all the good reviews. Then, here I am still can’t get over the facts that the drama end. The acting is so impressive. I like Gong Jun–the actor played Wen Ke Xing. He is gorgeous and worked so hard to bring his character to life. The plot is very intriguing and we didn’t get to know the ending till it was aired. Highly recommended (with a rating 10/10) and wish both actors continue to walk the hall of fame.

  15. I just finished this cdrama and it’s awesome! I love it even more than Untamed, the bromance here transcends the usual bromance and is more like traditional romance that several have pointed out already. There’s blatant flirting but also a lot of emotional bonding between the male leads, I really like that we got to see their relationship grow and solidify. The whole thing is more natural and more intense than what we got in Untamed (my personal opinion), also their chemistry is indeed off the charts! I also like all the side characters more than in Untamed, e.g. Scorpion is quite an interesting grey character throughout the drama while the baddies in untamed were almost caricatures of evil. Story-wise I think it’s better written as well and has more of a wuxia vibe to it and with everything combined it makes a more compelling and cohesive end product for me at least. So happy that I discovered this gem!

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