Chinese BL anime, also known as danmei, have gained popularity these past few years among viewers who enjoy the genre. BL stands for “boys’ love” and refers to anime that focuses on romantic relationships between male characters.

These danmei anime often have unique art styles and storytelling techniques, and they may incorporate cultural elements that are specific to China. Some popular Chinese BL anime include “Heaven Official’s Blessing,” and “Mo Dao Zu Shi.”

Danmei is a Chinese term for BL, which means “indulging in beauty.” It refers to a genre of fiction that focuses on romantic relationships between male characters. Danmei has become increasingly popular in China and has developed its own unique set of terminologies. 

Heaven Official’s Blessing 2nd Anniversary Special Video | BiliBili

Some common terminologies in Danmei include:

  • Gong/Shou: These terms refer to the “top” or dominant partner (gong) and the “bottom” or submissive partner (shou) in a BL relationship.
  • CP: This term refers to a “couple” or romantic pairing between two characters in a BL relationship.
  • Xianxia: A genre of fantasy fiction that often involves martial arts, magic, and immortals. Many danmei works are set in xianxia worlds.
  • Cultivation: A practice in xianxia worlds where characters train to improve their strength and abilities.
  • BL novel: Many danmei works are based on BL novels, which are popular in China and often have a large fan base.
  • Bromance: A term that is used to describe close, non-sexual relationships between male characters. This term is sometimes used as a euphemism for BL in Chinese media.
  • Censorship: Due to the sensitivity of LGBT content in China, danmei’s works may face censorship or restrictions on their publication or distribution.

What’s the current status of BL in China today? 

The current status of BL, or Danmei, in China, is complex and often controversial. While danmei has gained a significant following in recent years, it is still subject to censorship and government restrictions due to its LGBT themes. 

In 2016, China’s media regulator issued guidelines that banned depictions of “abnormal sexual behavior” (on television, including homosexuality. These guidelines have been enforced more strictly in recent years, leading to the removal of some BL content from streaming platforms.

In Chinese animation, this has resulted in a complicated situation as creators must navigate a fine line between portraying same-sex relationships and staying within the boundaries of what is deemed acceptable by the government. The industry has also seen some changes in recent years, with more companies beginning to produce BL content and some creators finding ways to push the boundaries of what is considered acceptable within the constraints of censorship policies.

Legend of Exorcism is an ongoing fantasy anime series based on the adaptation of Fei Tian Ye Xiang’s (非天夜翔) Chinese web novel of the same name.

However, despite these restrictions, danmei continues to thrive in China. Many BL works are still being produced and distributed, albeit with some modifications to avoid censorship. Fans continue to create and share fanfiction, fanart, and other content related to their favorite BL works. In 2019, the BL drama “The Untamed” was released and became a cultural phenomenon, with fans creating a massive online community around the show. The drama was also released uncensored on international streaming platforms, allowing fans outside of China to watch the full version of the show. 

Additionally, some creators and publishers have found ways to work around censorship by creating subtle works that portray LGBT themes or by releasing uncensored versions of their shows through alternative channels.

The Weibo Boys Love portal’s “super index”

Despite the government’s restrictions, there are some signs that attitudes toward LGBT issues are shifting in China. In 2019, the Chinese social media platform Weibo reversed a decision to ban all LGBT content after a backlash from users

The status of BL in China is complicated and often uncertain, but it remains popular. While the censorship policies in China continue to pose challenges for the genre, the growing interest and support from the fans indicate significant demand for this type of content both within and outside of China.

How technically superior (or inferior) are the Chinese animators compared to Japan and South Korea? 

It’s difficult to make a direct comparison between Chinese, Japanese, and South Korean animators as they all have their unique styles and techniques. However, it’s worth noting that China’s animation industry is still relatively young compared to Japan and South Korea, so there may be differences in the technical expertise and resources available.

In recent years, China has invested heavily in its animation industry, with the government supporting the development of domestic animation studios and talent. This investment has led to the growth of China’s animation industry, with more and more Chinese animated works being produced each year; presenting Chinese animation to pave its unique road

However, some areas still exist where China’s animation industry may be seen as less technically advanced than its Japanese or South Korean counterparts. For example, some critics have noted that Chinese animated works often lack the level of polish and attention to detail common in Japanese anime. Others have pointed out that China’s animation industry is still heavily influenced by Japanese and Western animation. Chinese animators may need to develop a more distinct style to stand out in the global animation market.

Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation is a danmei novel written by Chinese author Mo Xiang Tong Xiu, also known as MXTX

The Chinese animation style is a unique blend of traditional Chinese art, fluid movements, attention to detail, and modern 3D animation techniques. This style has helped to create some of the most visually stunning and engaging Chinese BL anime to date. It incorporates traditional Chinese art elements like calligraphy, painting, and symbolism. It’s characterized by fluid, graceful movements with highly choreographed fight scenes. The color palette is more muted and natural, and attention is given to detailed backgrounds and stylized, emotive characters. Chinese animation industry also utilizes 3D animation to create dynamic and visually impressive action sequences and an expansive environment.

One advantage of Chinese animation is its vast domestic market, which is the largest in the world. It allowed for more investment in the industry and the development of diverse content to cater to different audiences. 

Estimated to be worth more than $21bn, China’s flourishing anime industry is expected to outgrow Japan’s as early as this year (2017).

Article: Anime enjoys an explosive popularity in China |

That being said, there are also many talented and skilled animators working in China today, and the country’s animation industry is constantly evolving and improving. As with any creative field, there is a wide range of technical abilities and styles among Chinese animators, and it’s difficult to make a blanket statement about their level of expertise. 

Ultimately, whether Chinese animation will surpass the Japanese animation industry will depend on various factors, including the quality of the content, the level of investment and support from both the government and private investors, and the ability to appeal to global audiences.

What makes Chinese BL anime amazing?

One of the main reasons for its success is the genre’s unique storytelling, which has captured the interest of viewers. Chinese BL anime also features diverse and well-developed characters, which adds to the appeal of the genre. High-quality animation and engaging music have also played a role in the success of Chinese BL anime.

3D animation Thousand Autumns is based on a novel of the same name and produced by Tencent Penguin Pictures

Here are some factors that contribute to the success and popularity of Chinese BL anime:

Unique storytelling 

Chinese BL anime often features complex and intricate storylines that revolve around themes such as romance, friendship, and personal growth. They also tend to incorporate elements of fantasy and mythology into their storytelling, which sets them apart from other BL anime.

Diverse characters

It features a diverse range of characters with distinct personalities and backgrounds, making it easier for viewers to relate to them. Additionally, the characters often have well-developed relationships, which enhances the emotional impact of the story. 

High-quality animation

In recent years, the quality of Chinese animation has improved significantly, with many studios adopting advanced animation techniques and technologies. This has resulted in visually stunning and engaging BL anime that can rival the quality of Japanese and Korean animation.

Engaging music

Chinese BL anime often features beautiful and emotional soundtracks that enhance the overall viewing experience. The music is often composed by talented musicians and artists, which adds to the uniqueness of the anime. Such feat is present at some of the most popular BL donghua such as Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation, and Heaven Official’s Blessing.

Dedicated fan base

The dedicated and passionate fan base has helped to promote and support the genre. Fans often create fan art, fan fiction, and fan videos, which further increases the popularity of anime. This is the reason why Chinese BL as a genre exploded outside of China as it is often the fans that promote it through word of mouth and social media.

Top 5 Chinese BL Anime Recommendations 

If you’re new to Chinese BL anime or simply looking for some great shows to watch, this section is just for you. We’ve curated a list of the top 5 Chinese BL anime that we believe are the cream of the crop. Our selection was made based on each show’s unique storytelling, exceptional character development, high-quality animation, and overall entertainment value. We’ll also delve into each recommendation with detailed insights and analysis, so you can make an informed decision about which one to watch first.

Heaven Official’s Blessing

Official trailer of Heaven Official’s Blessing | BiliBili

Heaven Official’s Blessing,” the show has a unique blend of fantasy and romance, and it explores the complex relationship between Xie Lian and Hua Cheng. Xie Lian’s character is portrayed as a selfless and kind-hearted divinity, who is willing to help others even at his own expense.

On the other hand, Hua Cheng is a complex character who is known as one of the 4 Ghost Kings, and he harbors deep feelings for Xie Lian.

One of the significant strengths of the show is its animation, which was beautifully done, especially in the depiction of the world that the characters inhabit. The fight scenes are also well-choreographed and visually stunning. The storyline is well-paced, with a mix of humor, action, and romance that keeps viewers engaged throughout. Additionally, the show’s music and voice acting are top-notch, adding to the overall immersive experience.

Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation

”Mo Dao Zu Shi” (魔道祖师), translatable as either “Founder of Diabolism” or “Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation”, Adapted from a BL Xianxia Web Novel, Donghua (Animation) made by B.CMAY

Simply known as Mo Dao Zu Shi, it is a Chinese BL donghua based on a novel by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu.

It follows the story of Wei Wuxian, a powerful cultivator who died after being wrongly accused of a crime. He is resurrected 13 years later and sets out to uncover the truth behind his death and clear his name.

One of the things that make Mo Dao Zu Shi stand out is its exceptional animation quality. The visuals are stunning, with fluid and dynamic fight scenes, intricate character designs, and breathtaking landscapes. The art style is a blend of traditional Chinese ink painting and modern digital techniques, creating a unique aesthetic that sets it apart from other anime.

Moreover, the show has a compelling storyline with well-developed characters, intricate plot twists, and deep lore that draws the audience in. The relationship between the two main characters, Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji, is a slow-burn romance that is subtly woven into the plot. The show does not shy away from depicting their complex emotions and the challenges they face in a society that frowns upon their relationship.

Thousand Autumns

Thousand Autumns | QIANQIU – Donghua 2nd OP (Official PV)

Thousand Autumns is a Chinese BL novel that was adapted into a donghua in 2020. It tells the story of Yan Wushi, a martial arts expert who had lost faith in humanity, who stumbles upon Shen Qiao, the highly-respected young leader of the top Daoist sect, who falls off a cliff after being challenged to a duel.

He saves Shen Qiao’s life and realized that Shen Qiao is someone with a great sense of kindness and justice. Hence, he came up with a plan to test Shen Qiao’s character, can he truly stay eternally kind despite facing thousands of setbacks and tribulations?

One of the main strengths of Thousand Autumns as a BL story is its emphasis on the emotional connection between the two protagonists. The show takes its time in building up their relationship, allowing the audience to become invested in their journey. Additionally, the show’s animation is visually stunning, with beautiful landscapes and intricate character designs. It is animated by Shanghai Motion Magic, the studio behind the super-popular fantasy donghua Battle Through The Heavens.

Legend of Exorcism

Legend of Exorcism – Official Trailer | BiliBili

Tian Bao Fuyao Lu, also known as Legend of Exorcism, is a Chinese BL anime that follows the story of Kong Hongjun, a young man with demon’s blood, he leaves Yaojin Palace with three tasks and arrives in the bustling city of Chang’an.

He joins the Datang Exorcism Division and accidentally causes the heart lamp to enter Li Jinglong’s body. The show is based on a novel by author Feitian Yexiang and has gained a following for its unique blend of action, adventure, and romance.

What makes Tian Bao Fuyao Lu a compelling BL story is the dynamic bond between the two main characters and the people that surrounds them. The show portrays their relationship as a slow-burn romance, with their feelings for each other gradually developing throughout the series. The chemistry between the two characters is palpable, and their interactions are often filled with tension and longing.

Scumbag System

Scumbag System trailer | Tencent Video-ANIMATION

The show follows Shen Yuan, a young office worker who is transported into the world of a novel he had been reading. In this new world, Shen Yuan must navigate dangerous scenarios since he ended up possessing the body of the main villain whose imminent tragic demise he knows very well. Hence, he must find ways to survive despite being restricted by the system of that world. 

The story has a compelling plot that draws viewers in and keeps them interested. It is a story of redemption, growth, and self-discovery that is told with wit, humor, and heart. The characters are well-developed and complex, with unique personalities, motivations, and backstories. The protagonist, Shen Yuan, is a relatable character that audiences can root for, and his relationships with other characters are engaging to watch.

The Final Word

In conclusion, Chinese BL anime has become a rising force in the world of animation, offering unique stories and well-crafted characters that have captivated audiences worldwide. These shows have gained a massive following not only within the Chinese market but also internationally, with their compelling storylines, gorgeous animation, and unique take on the BL genre. 

It is important to note that the Chinese government has strict regulations and censorship laws in place, particularly when it comes to LGBTQ+ content. While BL donghua has gained popularity in recent years, it is not immune to these regulations. Some Chinese BL anime may need to navigate these regulations by not explicitly depicting same-sex relationships or using more subtle storytelling techniques to imply a romantic relationship. 

Despite these challenges, Chinese BL anime has continued to grow and attract a loyal fanbase both within China and globally. The popularity of these shows is a testament to the appeal of their unique stories and well-crafted characters, which have resonated with viewers.

With the continued growth of Chinese animation and the increasing demand for diverse representation, it is no doubt that Chinese BL anime will continue to shine and pave the way for more LGBTQ+ representation in media.


If you enjoyed this article, we highly recommend the below posts as well:

Chinese BL: Of Soft Power and Censorship

Heaven Official’s Blessing: Subtle romance amidst Conspiracy and Violence (2020)

BL Anime – List of 25 Best Yaoi anime series and movies | Recommendations