Watch Chinese dramas, Learn Chinese

Do you like Chinese TV dramas? I believe watching TV is a good way to practice Chinese, because not only is it fun, but you can also learn a lot about the culture.
In this blog, I give my recommendation for a Chinese TV drama high in popularity right now.

The drama I want to recommend is called “ huānsòng (Ode to Joy)”, and is the most popular drama in China at the moment. A lot of foreigners have asked me what the show is about, so let’s learn more about the show and take a look at some of the dialogue!


The story in “Ode to Joy” revolves around five women who live in Shanghai in an apartment complex called “Ode to Joy”. The series is a realistic depiction of modern life in China, and shows the lives of these five women as they struggle with love and work as independent modern women.

Character Profiles

  • Ān (An Di) is a successful business woman who has returned to China to find her younger brother after studying in New York
  • xiǎoxiāo (Qu Xiao Xiao) comes from a rich family. She is only 25 but already owns her own small business.
  • Fánshèngměi (Fang Sheng Mei) grew up in poverty but has shed her “Princess of the Streets” background to work for a multinational company.
  • Qiūyíngyíng (Qiu Ying Ying) is a 20-year-old small-town girl who is trying to make it in the big city.
  • Guāněr (Guan Ju Er) is a 20-year-old from a highly educated family, but she must discover what she wants out of life when she enters the workforce for the first time.

Reasons for Recommendation

I highly recommend this drama as a resource for learning Chinese. It is a modern drama with everyday language, helping you practice authentic Chinese which you won’t find in textbooks. It also depicts real life in the modern Chinese society, helping you understand Chinese life and culture.
You can find versions with both English and Chinese subtitles online, making it suitable to watch for learners of different levels.

Let’s watch the first episode!

How to address someone in Chinese

Let’s take a look at the dialogue which appears at 02:27~03:37 in the video above. The three girls Fánshèngměi (F), Qiūyíngyíng (Q) and Guāněr (G) are talking about their new next door neighbor. The dialogue has three different ways of calling someone by their name. Can you tell what they are?

Surname + jiě

In the dialogue, Qiūyíngyíng (Q) and Guāněr (G) use Fánjiě to address Fánshèngměi (F).
jiě is term of endearment meaning older sister, and we often hear Chinese use “surname + jiě” to address a female older than them. The male counterpart is “surname + ”.

Sister Wang
wáng jiě 王姐
Brother Zhang
zhāng gē 张哥

xiǎo + surname

On the fifth line of the dialogue, Guāněr (G) says “我听小郑说”, “ xiǎo + surname” is the way to address someone who is younger than you, and can be used for both females and males.

Sometimes we also see the same structure using lǎo instead of xiǎo.
lǎo + surname” is often used to address a male acquaintance (usually of similar age). Be careful though, as you should not use it towards a person who is much older than you, as in that case it would be impolite. In that case, you can instead use jiě or which we studied above.

Mr/Miss Wang
xiǎo wáng 小王
Mr Zhang
lǎo zhāng 老张


In the last part of the dialogue, Fánshèngměi (F) says “Don’t call me Fan-jie”. As we just learned, jiě is used to address someone who older than yourself, and Fánshèngměi (F) doesn’t like to be reminded of her age. Instead, Qiūyíngyíng (Q) and Guāněr (G) refer to her as xiǎoměiměiméi.

xiǎoměi is the same basic structure as “ xiǎo + surname”, but since they are close friends they don’t use the surname Fán, but use a character from her given name měi instead.

měiméi is an internet buzzword meaning pretty girl. měiméi’s pronunciation is similar to “ mèimei” (little sister), and the literal meaning of měiméi is beautiful eyebrow. The Chinese think the eyebrow shows a girl’s beauty, so “beautiful eyebrow” lets people imagine a beauty girl. You may also come across the shortened version of měiméi: MM.

Those are our three ways of addressing someone. Let’s learn some keywords from the dialogue.

Date words
yuē huì 约会
blind date
xiāng qīn 相亲
tall, rich and handsome man
gāo fù shuài 高富帅
(see our previous blog post)
come on
jiā yóu 加油
surveillance camera
shè xiàng tóu 摄像头
shadow of a human figure
rén yǐng 人影
move in
rù zhù 入住 / bān lái 搬来
who cares
guǎn tā ne 管他呢

Did you enjoy “Ode to Joy”?

This is the accompanying blog post for our advanced course Watch Movies and Learn Chinese and advanced lesson “Watch Chinese Dramas, Learn Chinese“.

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