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What is Danmei?-Forbidden Romance Genre

Recently, I learned that Chinese BL (Boys’ Love) literature is very famous abroad.

At first I was a bit confused, but after thinking back to my high school and college days, I remembered that my roommates often read BL literature after class.

After careful research, I found out that BL literature had become popular during my student days.

What’s the Meaning of Danmei? (耽美)

According to Urban Dictionary, Danmei In the Chinese industry meaning gay love, boy’s love (BL), homosexuality.

Primarily targeted towards a female audience but occasionally pans toward men.

Then you may wonder, what about lesbian love, girl’s love (GL)?

In Chinese, we call it Baihe (百合). But it is not as popular as Danmei.

What’s the History of Danmei?

  • 1970s: Japanese manga introduces male same-sex romance genre of “boys’ love” (BL).
  • Early 1990s: Taiwanese translations of Japanese comics introduce BL to mainland China.
  • 1999: Online danmei forums founded; Danmei magazine published.
  • Early 2000s: Commercial online fiction websites founded.  Jìnjiāng Wénxuéchéng (Chinese: 晋江文学城; Jinjiang Literature City) is the largest among them.

Danmei novels are popular in China, mostly among young female audiences. Danmei Novels:

  • Provide readers with an outlet to explore their own identities, as well as to experience emotions often not seen or discussed in mainstream media.
  • Additionally, the fan culture around these novels has grown significantly, with readers participating in fan art, fan fiction, and other activities to support their favorite characters and stories.
  • Feature two very handsome and god-like boys or men, normally under the age of 35.
  • Feature an idealistic relationship between two persons. Romantic, idyllic, great for young dreamers to keep on dreaming.
  • The relationship between two men create a sense of equality. Girls feel jealous towards another girl but not towards another boy.

If you are not so into novels, there are lots of Danmei web series for you.

Web series that is adapted and filmed by a film and television company after purchasing the original BL novel copyright.

Danmei Novel Recommendations:

Can Cipin-残次品

“Can Cipin” is a futuristic BL novel created by author Priest, which was serialized on the Jinjiang Literature City on April 7, 2017.

It tells the story of Lin Jingheng and Lu Bixing, leading the abandoned people of the Eighth Galaxy to ultimately strive for transformation and freedom.

Awards:

  • On November 22, 2019, “Can Cipin” won the “Best Original Book Award” of the 30th Chinese Science Fiction Galaxy Award.
  • On December 26, 2019, It won the “Annual Long-form Type Novel Award” of the Reading · Searchlight Book Reviewer Book Award.

This excellent novel has also been adapted into an animated series. Here is the link to watch. If you want to get a book to read, click here.

Little Mushroom-小蘑菇

“Little Mushroom” is an original novel written by Yi Shi Si Zhou(一十四州)It was serialized in Jinjiang Literature City.

The story of Little Mushroom mainly tells of a small mushroom that transformed into a human, who came to the human base to find its spores, and witnessed the human’s efforts to survive before a huge danger.

Award:

In October 2021, it won the Silver Award for Best Novel at the 12th Global Chinese Science Fiction Xingyun Awards ( Chinese Nebula Awards).

Its official English book can be found on amazon if you want to read immediately, Click here.


If you would like to know more novel recommendations, you can refer to this website: heavenlypath.notion which also includes graded reading guidance and is super helpful for those who want to improve their Chinese through BL reading 🙂


Some excellent Danmei novels have been adapted into Chinese anime, but some have been adapted into web dramas.

Next, let’s have a look at the 3 most popular web dramas that are adapted from Danmei novels.

1. Zhen Hun (镇魂:Zhen Hun)

Commonly known as Guardian, is a fantasy danmei Web Novel written by Priest (who also wrote Sha Po Lang).

It is a supernatural crime drama that follows a special task force of detectives and a mysterious spirit who team up to solve cases.

2. The Untamed (陈情令:Chen Qing Ling)

It is a web series loosely based on the Chinese Boys’ Love novel Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation: Mo Dao Zu Shi by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu.

It is a period drama set during the Ming Dynasty, following the story of a group of outlaws who battle corruption and injustice.

3. Word of Honor (山河令:Shān Hé Líng)

It is a 2021 Chinese series. It’s loosely based on the novel Tian Ya Ke (天涯客: Tiān Yá Kè, Faraway Wanderers) by Priest (author of Zhen Hun and Sha Po Lang).

山河令 follows the story of a group of martial arts masters as they fight to protect the kingdom from danger.

What is Danmei Xianxia?

There are many types of novels the same with Danmei novels. Among all the kinds, the most popular one is called Xian xia.

Danmei Xianxia(仙侠)is a Chinese genre of fantasy fiction that combines elements of “boy’s love” within a fantasy setting.

It typically features a protagonist with supernatural powers, such as martial arts, using their powers to fight against evil forces and save the world.

These stories often contain elements of romance and adventure, and often feature a strong female supporting cast.

Tip: Xianxia generally has a much larger focus on spiritual growth and power interacting with spirits and immortals; while Wuxia is more grounded.

Is Danmei Illegal in China?

Danmei online content is not banned, but is subject to censorship. Some IPs or authors may be temporarily removed for censorship reasons, but it remains available.

Danmei drama production companies are keeping a low profile when releasing their works, such as Mo Du and Tian Guan Ci Fu, but are still creating them.

Final Words:

If you are a fan of danmei novels and want more articles about danmei, please leave comments below.

And if you like our articles, please share with friends on social 🙂

Frequently Asked Questions: FAQ

Whats Chinese BL called?

Chinese BL novels are called Danmei (耽美)

Is danmei problematic?

It can be problematic if we are not aware of 2 potential issues.

One potential issue with danmei and BL fiction is that it can perpetuate harmful stereotypes and prejudices about LGBTQ+ people.

For example, some works in these genres may depict LGBTQ+ relationships in a way that reinforces harmful notions of gender roles or reinforces negative stereotypes about LGBTQ+ people.

Another potential issue with danmei and BL fiction is that it can sometimes be marketed and consumed in a way that objectifies or fetishizes LGBTQ+ relationships.

This can be particularly harmful for LGBTQ+ people who may already be marginalized or oppressed due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

It is important to be aware of these potential issues when consuming any media, including danmei and BL fiction, and to consider the ways in which it may contribute to harmful attitudes or behaviors.

Is MDZS a danmei?

Yes, it is.
Mo Dao Zu Shi (MDZS) is a Chinese web novel and animated series that has gained a significant following worldwide.

It is often referred to as a danmei or boys’ love (BL) work, as it features romantic and sexual relationships between male characters.

Is TGCF Xianxia or wuxia?

TGCF is Xianxia.
Heaven Official’s Blessing (天官赐福, Tiān Guān Cì Fú) is a Chinese web novel written by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu and one that can be sorted in the genres of Xianxia (fantasy genre influenced by Taoism, Buddhism, Chinese mythology, etc.)

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