It's been a while since my last travel adventure. The pandemic effectively cut off everything about my travel plans, so I have not posted any articles from an actual leisure trip in almost two years. However lately, while watching the travel vlog of Chinese heartthrob, Wu Lei (Leo Wu), who portrayed the irresistible Ashile Sun in the recently concluded C-Drama, The Long Ballad, on his recent outdoor cycling adventure to Qiandao Lake in Zhejiang province, China, I became interested in writing a travel feature again.

Chinese heartthrob, Wu Lei, on his recent cycling adventure trip

Although borders are still closed and international travel for leisure is still off the table, we can actually start planning our next trip as early as now, set the budget, and do some research on gorgeous places to visit. Since I am fascinated with the breathtaking scenery of the C-drama filming locations, I have compiled the best places to visit in China to experience the C-drama historical feel. 

Eternal Love shot in Xiangshan Global Studio

Like most drama fanatics who became interested to visit Korea after becoming addicted to K-drama series, I am also interested to explore the C-drama filming locations in mainland China. In great contrast to other Asian dramas, including Korean dramas, Chinese dramas are mostly filmed on film sets that depict the real situations of an era in the storyline.

C-Drama filming locations

If you are frequently watching historical or costume series of C-Drama, you will notice the locations are mostly in tranquil villages, beautiful scenery, mountains, lakes, and quaint towns that recreate the life of an old world.

Actually, those dramas are filmed in China's two biggest film studios - Hengdian World Studio and Xiangshan Global studios. There are some instances when filming takes place somewhere else, in the actual locations of beautiful villages, mountains, and the grasslands. 

Li Bingbing as Nichang in the Forbidden Kingdom shot in Hengdian

Here are the places where you should go to see the actual filming locations of C-Drama:

1. Hengdian World Studios. Located in Hengdian, Dongyang, Zhejiang province. It is operated by Hengdian Group owned by Xu Wenrong and it is the world's largest film studio. One of the most popular tourist attractions in Asia with a recorded number of visitors of 20 million in 2019.

Aerial view of Hengdian world studios

It recreates Imperial Palace buildings and pavilions. Around 70% of Chinese TV series and films are shoot in Hengdian studios. Even the K-drama, Empress Ki, was shot there. It has 21 filming lots spread across 30 square kilometers. The tour here is not only for drama memories but also to make each one's wildest film fantasies come true.

The scene takes you back in time, to the ancient world of imperial dynasties of Qing, Sui, Ming, Tang, and Qin as the area is filled with glittery palaces designed to recreate the atmosphere of the country's vivid past. It has also a theme park called Dream Valley where visitors can watch plays, live shows, and movies. One of its grandest buildings is the replica of the Imperial Palace building.

Most scenes of The Long Ballad were shot in Hengdian 

Popular films and TV series shot there are:

  • Forbidden Kingdom (a blockbuster Jackie Chan and Jet Li film collaboration released in 2008)
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee film which won Best Foreign Film in the Oscar awards in 2001 starring Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun Fat)
  • Empress Ki (Korean historical drama)
  • The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
  • Mulan (2020 Disney live-action film starring Liu Yifei)
  • More than 70% of historical and costume C-Drama series are shot here. The Long Ballad, The Untamed, Legend of Fuyao, and many more.

Famous replicas in this outdoor film studio:

  • Guangzhou Street and Hong Kong Street 
  • The Palace of Emperor Qin
  • Palace of Ming and Qing Dynasties
  • Qing Ming Shang He Tu
  • The Dream Bund
  • New Yuanmingyuan
  • Dream Valley

Entrance fee: 400 yuan per person. Operating hours: 8:00pm to 5:00pm

What to do at Hengdian World studio:

  • Watch live cultural performances, shows and movies at night time at Dream Valley
  • Experience an ancient costume dress-up just like the characters in historical films and series
  • Stay in film set hotels
  • Tour around the magnificent imperial palaces, princely pavilions and replicas of old oriental streets
  • Dream bund area allows you to experience the old Shanghai
How To Get There:

It takes 4-hour travel via land from Shanghai and Jiangsu. There's no airport in Hengdian town, the nearest area with an international airport is Hangzhou which is two and a half hours travel to Hengdian. But there are hotels, restaurant and shopping centers around the town.

2. Xiangshan Global Studios. A film and television studio located in Xinqiao town in the Xiangshan county, Zhejiang province. Measured at 78,000 square meters or 194 acre, it is a popular location for C-Drama historical series and films, however a bit smaller than Hengdian world studios.

Xiangshan Global Studio

Most popular films and series shot here:

  • The Return of the Condor Heroes
  • The Legend of the Condor Heroes
  • Nirvana in Fire
  • Eternal Love: Ten Miles of Peach Blossom
  • The Flame's Daughter
  • The Longest Day in Chang'an
  • Legend of Qin
  • Chinese Paladin 3
  • Sound of the Desert
  • Journey to the West
  • The Warrior's Gate (film)
  • Sacrifice (film)
  • The Four (film)
3. Yunnan mountain and ethnic village - Located in Yunnan province, this place is also famous as film location of historical series. Yunnan is in the Southernmost part of China bordering Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, and Tibet.

Yunnan village

It is mountainous and mostly covered with beautiful lakes, great for nature excursions and meditation. The best travel time in Yunnan is during Autumn and Spring. Its mountains are covered with cherry blossoms at springtime. It is also home to many UNESCO world heritage sites, its most famous is the cultural landscape of Honghe Hani Rice Terraces. Yunnan mountainside and its ethnic village are famous as film locations of most C-drama historical series.

UNESCO World Heritage Site, Honghe Hani Rice Terraces

4. Zhangjiajie National Park - famous as the filming location of James Cameron's Avatar, it is located in Zhangjiajie, Hunan province. The best time to visit this place is during Spring or Autumn when the weather is beautiful. A recommended visit is two days to make the most of your time.

5. Wulong County, Chongqing - This area is most famous as a film location of Transformer: Age of Extinction. It is located in Chongqing province and can be reached through Chongqing North Railway Station. 

Wulong County, Chongqing

The best travel experience in this area is through the Wulong Karst landscape which comprises of natural bridges, fairy mountains and Furong cave. Its three natural bridges are the largest natural bridge group in Asia. These three natural bridges lie north to south, crossing over the Yangshuihe Gorge and connecting the mountains at the two sides. Wulong mountain is famous as a cinematography landscape of most wuxia and xianxia C-drama series.

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