In my quest to read all romance & angst [虐恋] c-novels, here are some of the more memorable ones I’ve read. Most of them are definite must-reads for anyone a fan of this genre, collated based on the countless recommendations I’ve seen from other chinese readers on baidu zhidao & tieba.
Do rec me any similar stories 🙂 I’m open to novels with happy endings or tragedies.
Deposed Empress General | 废后将军 by 一度君华 | Historical, Tragedy
Summary: You are the Emperor, and I am your subject: if you want loyalty, I will give you loyalty. You are the Emperor, and I am your subject: if you want my sacrifice, I will sacrifice for you. In this life, they can only be Emperor and official… she can never be the person to accompany him by his side for all eternity.
An Empress that has been deposed; an utter failure of a substitute. Galloping into the battlegrounds, he was the Emperor, and she was his General. Within the swirling mists of their military tents, he was her husband, and she was his wife.
Yet everything was just an ill-fated meeting. For the woman he loved most, he pushed her into hell, time and time again…
Rating: 5/5 | Angst: 4/5
‘If I am Emperor in the next life, you will be my Empress. As long as the river continues to flow, my promise will never be broken.’
Thoughts: The title, Deposed Empress General, refers to Zuo Canglang. She became Murong Yan’s Empress due to her military contributions to the country, but was deposed in favour of Consort Lan (Jiang Bilan), Murong Yan’s childhood love. After she was deposed, she returned back to her position as a General, silently protecting the country.
This book’s reputation precedes it. I think a lot of people read this because of its notorious reputation. The male lead, Murong Yan, often tops polls ranking the most heartless male leads for a reason. It’s one of those books where there’s nothing to like about the characters or the plot, BUT the story will remain unforgettable. There’s a fair amount of angst novels out there, with similar themes of torture, deception and betrayal in the imperial family. Yi Du Jun Hua manages to outdo them all. You may not like the novel nor love its characters, but its impact cannot be denied.
There’s neither reprieve nor redemption, except near the end, where Murong Yan finally displays some genuine affection for Zuo Canglang. But it’s really the calm before the storm, since Zuo Canglang dies shortly after, and the book concludes in a tragedy. I don’t usually read tragedies, but I feel like there’s no other way for this book to end. A tragedy is the only way out for Murong Yan and Zuo Canglang.
There are two versions of this book. The newer, longer edition, is less heartwrenching. Zuo Canglang has a better ending there. But I prefer the old edition; despite its flawed and detestable characters, it’s a true classic of this genre and a definite must-read.
Hua Xu Yin | 华胥引 by 唐七公子 | Xuanhuan, Historical, Tragedy
Summary: Once upon a time, in a fallen kingdom, Princess Ye Zhen relied on the mermaid’s pearl to come back to life. She wandered among the 9 states with the guidance of melodies and weaved dreams for others. There are those who are able to achieve their desires, and those who forfeit their dreams in the face of reality.
Creating music from illusion, she is the God of Illusion, reigning over life and death. Yet she is unable to hold onto her own happiness. Again and again, she meets the Crown Prince of the rival nation, their identities weighing heavily upon them. In the end, was it a meeting of fate, or the teasing of destiny?
Rating: 5/5 | Angst: 4.5/5
‘I am Gongyi Fei. Dare I ask your name?’
She raised her paper umbrella, looking at him through hooded eyes.
‘Yong’an, Qing Jiujiu.’
Thoughts: Read this! It’s a very, very beautiful and heartwrenching story at the same time. I don’t know how Tang Qi manages to make me cry at one moment and laugh at the next. The only other similar story I’ve managed to find is 江南外传 (Stories of Jiangnan).
In the opening of the novel, Ye Zhen was the Princess of Wei, and she fell in love with Mu Yan, who unbeknownst to her, was Su Yu, the Prince of Chen, a rival nation. When Chen conquered Wei, Ye Zhen committed suicide by jumping off the capital tower. However, Ye Zhen is ‘revived’ by a special pearl. To continue living, however, she has to create illusions for others, where the person can choose to remain and die within the illusion. After her revival, Ye Zhen leaves her past life as a Princess behind and goes by the name Jun Fu.
There are four different pairs of lovers whose lives intersect with Jun Fu’s as she weaves a dream for them: Song Ning, Ying Ge, Qing Jiujiu, and Murong An. For each of these substories, they end in a tragedy. The sub-stories were the highlight of the book for me.
Song Ning’s story is about a woman’s love which was trampled upon due to a case of mistaken identity. Ying Ge’s story is about a pair of lovers whose futures were cut short due to the cruelty of fate, after they finally opened up their hearts and got together. Qing Jiujiu’s story is about having to live with the painful consequences of one’s choices. Murong An’s story is probably the most heartwarming, since it’s about redemption.
The saddest story would be Song Ning’s. My favourite is Qing Jiujiu’s (I feel that Gongyi Fei and Qing Jiujiu had an even worse ending than Song Ning and Shen An… I didn’t like Qing Jiujiu on first read, but I couldn’t stop thinking about her story. Actually, out of all the female leads in Hua Xu Yin, I think Qing Jiujiu was the one who left the deepest impression on me.) Crowd’s favourite is generally Ying Ge’s.
Overlaying all of these sub-stories is Jun Fu’s own story with Mu Yan, who accompanies her on her journey as she weaves the dreams for others. Their interactions are really cute and funny, a light-hearted change from the sombre undertone of the sub-stories. Just a warning: don’t read the extra story if you don’t want Jun Fu and Mu Yan’s happy ending to turn into a tragedy.
Shattered Glass | 殇璃 by 雪灵之 | Historical (Qing Dynasty), Tragedy
Summary: The green glazed tiles and red walls; the Imperial Garden with blooming flowers. An adolescent girl with a crush confessed, “Jing Xuan gege, I like you.”
Coldly, Jing Xuan rebuffed, “But I do not like you!”
As time goes by, after years of change… When they encountered each other again, the spoilt princess became an elegant lady.
He said to her, “Your husband will only be me and I will no longer disappoint you.”
With tearful eyes, she said chokingly, “You should have understood long ago that I have lost the courage to love you.”
He keeps slipping by her deep love; She keeps stepping back from his persistent attachment.
Rating: 5/5 | Angst: 4.5/5
She thought that her heart would never hurt again, even when she heard his name once more. Yet it turned out otherwise. Wasn’t it strange? She had long awoken from this foolish dream, but why was her heart so slow to understand?
Thoughts: Also known as Qing Cheng Jue Lian (Desperate Love), after its drama adaptation. A must read for this genre. The old edition (in the link I provided above) only has the second volume. The newer edition (the one I read), includes the first volume.
The first volume shows how Mei Li, who has a deep crush on Jing Xuan, follows him everywhere and tries her hardest to be liked by him. She’s immature and free-spirited, frequently acting without thinking of the consequences. One day, she accidentally kills an old woman in an accident. When the Emperor was deliberating over her sentence, there was talks that if Jing Xuan were to marry Mei Li, Mei Li would therefore be forced to ‘grow up’ and become more mature, hence sparing her from punishment. However, Jing Xuan detests Mei Li’s immaturity and requests for the Emperor to increase Mei Li’s sentence and imprison her in the cold palace for three years.
Volume two begins after Mei Li’s release from the cold palace. By now, the spirited and bubbly young girl has become reserved and careful, a complete change in her personality. The second volume (bulk of the book), is really on Jing Xuan persistently chasing after her, trying to get her to open her heart up again. But what’s lost is lost forever. Mei Li has become too afraid to love. A lot of people wonder if Jing Xuan loves Mei Li – but I think it’s very clear he does. His regret is extremely tangible. However, I sometimes wonder if Mei Li still loves Jing Xuan, because of how deeply she has hidden her heart.
After their marriage for four years, nothing has really changed, the gap between them only increasing. By the time Mei Li finally has the courage to admit to herself that Jing Xuan has finally won her heart back after his years of persistence, it’s too late for things to change. Mei Li commits suicide to give their son a better future. Jing Xuan, who was unable to stop this tragedy from taking place, eventually follows her in her death and dies in the battlefield. It’s one of those stories where it’s sorrow from beginning to the end. No matter what Jing Xuan does, it seems like he can never make things change for the better.
The ending is very sad… Years ago, when Mei Li was imprisoned in the cold palace, her greatest wish was for Jing Xuan to take her away. So she carved the words ‘Jing Xuan’ ‘brings away’ ‘Mei Li’ on three rocks and buried them. Years later, after Mei Li dies, Jing Xuan uncovers the rocks Mei Li had buried years ago, trying desperately to fulfil any of her wish, only to realise that it’s too late. Because her wishes were for him to visit her in the cold palace, for him to bring her away from it – and now, she’s dead, and he can never turn back the clock to fulfil those wishes. As Jing Xuan lays dying in the battlefield, he rearranges the rocks to show ‘Mei Li’ ‘brings away’ ‘Jing Xuan’, and the story comes to a full circle with Jing Xuan joining Mei Li in her death…
There are some stories where you only dare to read once. Shattered Glass is one of them… I’ve seen more cruel/ dramatic stories, but the heaviness in Shattered Glass is unmatched. I don’t know why, but this was one of the most depressing stories I’ve ever read. The author’s descriptions of the characters and their introspection was extremely well-written.
Wennuan’s Xian | 温暖的弦 by 安宁 | Modern-day, Reunion, HE
Summary: An innocent but deep love in their childhood did not fade into history after their cruel breakup. Instead, it caused the two of them to regard the other’s name as a forbidden word for the next ten years they spent apart, becoming a scar which never healed. Even if they each had another person by their side now, they were still unable to severe the longing in their hearts.
Who was more unable to forget the past? Was it Wennuan, who finally returned, or Zhan Nanxian, who spent ten years devising a trap to lure her to return?
A love between a man and woman appeared to be a war. All that was needed was a glance, a faintest smile, a kiss, a confession, and she would abandon everything, raising her arms in surrender. Yet he immediately announced his marriage to another woman.
Was this love? The Zhan Nanxian she once knew was now a stranger to her, forcing her to witness, move by move, as he controlled their lives.
Was it revenge? Ten years ago, she left without a word, causing him to descend into anguish and misery. Now, was he using the love she once again gave to him to ruin her world?
Perhaps an eternal promise of love really could not survive against the hatred borne from years of bitterness. Between the both of them, between the hatred and love, who knew which would triumph until the fall of the curtains.
Rating: 4/5 | Angst: 4/5
Your heart is a place I would want to return to, even if I have reached the ends of the world.
Thoughts: It’s a modern-day reunion-type story like Heyi Shengxiao Mo and The Journey From Tonight is White, but Zhan Nanxian is a psycho who spent 10 years devising a trap to take revenge on Wennuan for leaving him. If you think He Yichen and Gu Yebai are too perfect and too forgiving to the point of being unrealistic, then Zhan Nanxian is their antithesis. The few chapters when he finally exacts his revenge on Wennuan is so… I have no words, only tears. This is one of the rare times where I felt a tragedy would have been better suited to the novel.
Eastern Palace | 东宫 by 匪我思存 | Historical, Tragedy
Summary: She is the much loved and spoilt ninth princess of Xi Liang country. She embarked on the road to Central Plains for an arranged marriage.
He is the almighty and powerful crown prince. Because of a political marriage, he is forced to marry a foreign princess.
He had his own beloved concubine, Zhao Liangdi. She had her own life, escaping from the palace to ride horse, disguising as a young man, chasing thieves, sending lost children home and drinking wine.
Initially, their lives are like two parallel lines, never intersecting. However, the fight for power and position in the eastern palace, endless gossip, and hidden murderous intentions lead her to get involved step-by-step.
After surviving a near death experience, she suddenly recalled what had happened three years ago:
His blind date with her in the desert;
He beheaded the white-eyed wolf king in Tian Gen mountain for her;
They held a grand wedding on the prairie;
However, he also brought her disaster, a bloody genocide…
The River of Forgetfulness, to forget a love. When her memory returned, how should she choose?
Rating: 5/5 | Angst: 3/5
Nothing was more despairing than death. I used my body to turn away, leaving you, and you used the rest of your life to forget me.
Thoughts: Eastern Palace refers to the place of residence of the Crown Prince. The story centers around Xiaofeng, the Crown Princess, and Li Chengyin, the Crown Prince. At first glance, their political marriage appears to be like any other arranged marriage: devoid of love, where they rarely interact except to quarrel.
Except they’re not just any married couple. Three years ago, they fell in love and were to marry. Yet it was revealed that Li Chengyin was a spy who infiltrated Xiaofeng’s country, causing the collapse of the Tujue army and the destruction of her family. In her despair, Xiaofeng chose to jump off the cliff into the river of forgetfulness, to forget everything about Li Chengyin. Li Chengyin who jumped off after her, also forgot everything that had transpired between them.
However, even without her memories, Xiaofeng falls for Li Chengyin once more. Yet the past cannot be changed, and their romance is set on the path for a tragedy. The ending is really sad… Xiaofeng commits suicide and Li Chengyin goes insane with grief, showering all his love on Princess Zhaoyang (his niece), who he believes, in his insanity, is Xiaofeng’s daughter.
The first two-thirds of the novel is relatively light-hearted, but once Xiaofeng recovers her memories, everything is on a downward spiral… The extra story on Li Chengyin was the most poignant part of the novel for me.
Memories of a Beautiful Image | 犹记惊鸿照影 by 风凝雪舞 | Historical, HE
Summary: Her sister’s unexpected disappearance forced her to marry into the imperial family on her behalf. From the night of her wedding which she spent alone within her rooms to discovering her husband’s unforgettable deceased first love, she accepted all of these in peace. To marry a Prince was to marry in a marriage devoid of love, she knew. All that mattered was her family’s security.
She accompanied him by his side as he slowly rose to power, conquering the world. She looked at him. The greater his smile was, the colder his eyes were. Yet she had never imagined that one day, everything she treasured would be ruined by his very hands, crumbling into the dusts as ashes.
Rating: 5/5 | Angst: 3.5/5
‘Qing’er, you are my consort, and the only woman who I will spend the rest of my life with. No matter what happens in the future, I hope you will always believe in me.’
Thoughts: The above summary is quite vague, so I’ll attempt to summarize the plot here. In the very beginning, Ning Yuqing was a princess of the imperial family. Mutually in love, she and Nan Chengyao were engaged to be married. However, by a twist of events, Nan Chengyao eventually caused the ruin of her country and led the extermination of her royal family. Pursued by his troops, she was forced to jump off a cliff. In the aftermath, the Nan family become the new imperial family. Ning Yuqing is the unforgettable deceased first love in Nan Chengyao’s heart.
Though Ning Yuqing survives, she loses her memories and comes back under a different identity a few years later: Murong Qing, daughter of the powerful Murong family in this new reign under the Nan family. As Murong Qing, she and Nan Chengyao marry in a political match after her sister’s disappearance, but the both of them are initially unaware of her real identity.
Living as Murong Qing, her life is equally difficult as she navigates through all the politics involving the new imperial family and the Murong family, where nothing is as it seems. After her marriage, Nan Chengyao is her only support, but because of the circumstances, he is forced to make difficult decisions that seem unjustifiable and cruel. These culminates in her second chance at life where Murong Qing witnesses how Nan Chengyao ruins her life once more: this time, it is the Murong family which falls…
Journey of Flower | 花千骨 by Fresh 果果 | Xianxia, Master-Disciple, HE
Summary: When they first met, he was the powerful high immortal of Changliu, and she had transformed into a little worm in order to trespass. However, the wind which blew caused her to fall into his wine goblet.
‘Fallen by accident?’ His smile was mild yet benevolent. It was the first she had seen in her life, and it was directed towards a small worm.
A promise to be fulfilled within a year: she tried her hardest just so that one day, she would be able to call him ‘shifu’.
‘Shifu, why did you accept me as your disciple?’
He did not reply, only gifting her the gongling, gently patting her head. His untouchable figure, clad in white, stood at the stones atop Jueqing Hall day after day, watching over the common people. She swore that she would never let him live in solitude ever again. Yet their days spent together in Jueqing Hall, her silent accompaniment by his side, eventually reached their end.
To save his life, she committed a heinous crime. Except… ‘A mistake is still a mistake.’ He remained coldly distant.
81 nails to eviscerate her soul; the duannian sword, coldly raised.
The sword severing her longing, and she, severing her love.
Rating: 5/5 | Angst: 3/5
‘I have no shifu, no friends, no lover, no children. Once, I thought I had the world in my hands, but it was all an illusion. The people who loved me, died for me; the people I loved, wanted me dead; the people I trusted, betrayed me; the people I depended on, abandoned me. There is nothing I want, nothing I wish for, except to live a simple life. Yet the Heavens have forced me – you (Bai Zihua) have forced me! Do you think that I can still turn back, now?’
Thoughts: A very famous xianxia romance about the forbidden love between the leader of the powerful Changliu Sect, Bai Zihua, and his disciple, Hua Qian’gu. The overall theme of the book is on how Bai Zihua, due to his responsibilities towards the six realms and the common people, chooses to forsake Hua Qian’gu, time and time again. He is a benevolent but unfeeling man; the greater he loves the world, the less he can love a person, who will never be his first priority.
To Bai Zihua, because of how strictly he abides by his principles, a mistake, once committed, no matter the reasons behind it, is still a mistake. That was one of the reasons why he sentenced Hua Qian’gu to torture, imprisonment and exile after discovering Hua Qian’gu precipitated the release of demons into the world, even if she only did so to save his life. Hua Qian’gu, forsaken by Changliu Sect and abandoned by Bai Zihua, is eventually forced into becoming a Demon God. In the end, Bai Zihua personally kills Hua Qian’gu with his own hands in order to halt her destruction of the world, only to realise that it was all an illusion, and that Hua Qian’gu, even as a Demon God, never once forgot his teachings to always be benevolent towards the world.
As Hua Qian’gu lays dying, she curses Bai Zihua: ‘Bai Zihua, in this life and for all eternity, you can never age nor die, can never suffer nor be hurt.’ … Thus preventing Bai Zihua from joining her in her death…
Hua Qian’gu has a lot of characters, but Bai Zihua was the one who made the book memorable for me.
Chongzi | 重紫 by 蜀客 | Xianxia, Master-Disciple, HE
Summary: In the six realms, of all the immortals, he was the powerful and influential zunzhe of Chonghua, standing high above everyone else. A distant figure, he was revered by all, yet he remained untouchable, possessed by no one.
Within the chaos, she walked towards him, becoming his disciple. Born with a demonic aura, she was destined to fall into demonhood, and was forbidden from cultivating. But none of these mattered, as long as she could accompany him by his side. Helpless and despairing, she stared at him, not daring to yearn, yet not being able to stop her longing.
Her only wish was to remain by his side for all eternity. Yet the fates were not merciful: the enmity between the immortals and the demons had not been concluded, and everything was just at its beginning!
Rating: 4/5 | Angst: 2/5
‘You have never believed in me.’
The people who liked me and harmed me, died for me. I owe them, but you are the only person I do not owe.
Thoughts: Another xianxia romance novel similar to Hua Qian’gu. Their overall theme is similar: a disciple who falls in love with her shifu, and is eventually forced by circumstances and the people around her into becoming a demon. I actually prefer the writing style of Chongzi, even though Hua Qian’gu has more memorable characters.
One notable difference between Chongzi and Hua Qian’gu is that Chongzi reincarnates. In her first life, after being set-up and wrongly accused of various crimes including conspiring with the demons, Chongzi pleads for Luo Yinfan to end her life instead of letting her live in misery and imprisonment. Luo Yinfan does so, and kills Chongzi with his own hands.
However, her soul is secretly saved by Wan Jie (a fallen immortal who becomes a demon), and she reincarnates without Luo Yinfan knowing. Living his life in regret, years later, Luo Yinfan comes across Chongzi, now without her memories, in her second life. He chooses to accept her as his disciple once more, vowing to make things right this time round. Yet they cannot stop their destiny. In her second life, the prejudice of the world and the manipulations of various people force Chongzi into becoming a demon. Now, this pair of master and disciple are now reduced to immortal and demon, on opposite sides of the battlefield.
Cruel Music | 残音 by 稻芽 | Historical, Xuanhuan, HE
Summary: ‘Do you know how beautiful you are? Your looks are able to cause the ruin of a country. To give yourself only to me, isn’t that a pity…’ With these words, he gifted her to another man.
‘So what if I have this face?’ She laughed bitterly. ‘A beauty that can cause the ruin of a country cannot even cause the heart of one man to sway.’ Without hesitation, she disfigured her face. The only man she loved treated her in such a manner, so what value did her beauty have for her?
‘I will always wait for you. As long as you are always waiting for him, a man who will never love you, then I am more fortunate than you. I will wait for you until you give him up. Perhaps you’ll not love him anymore, or perhaps you’ll come to love another. At least, then, I will be assured….’ He treated her better than he did, choosing to wait several years for her. Alas, the man who loved her was not the man she loved, and she could only disappoint him.
‘Hanyin, do you know how foolish it is to talk about love to me?’ Even as she lay dying, he was unwilling… Even if it were only a lie… she wanted to hear him say. It turns out, falling in love with him was her mistake. If she could choose once more, she would never fall for this man again, would never love in such anguish.
Rating: 3/5 | Angst: 2/5
Thoughts: In the beginning, Hanyin is a loyal follower of Ye Canxin, but she suffers in his hands because of her unrequited love, which he knows and makes use of. Ye Canxin is cruel to her, going as far as to test a poison on her in order to save her half-sister. Things change after Hanyin jumps/falls of a cliff, and goes missing from many years with their child, hiding from him. The second half of the book deals with after Ye Canxin eventually manages to find Hanyin, and revolves around the question on whether everything between them is still salvageable.
This book frequently appears on romance/angst rec lists together with Shattered Glass and Deposed Empress General, but the three of them evoke very different feelings. Cruel Music is the most mellow out of the three; Shattered Glass has a form of bitter
sweet sadness; Deposed Empress General fills the reader with despair and rage.
The Slave: Qi Qi | 奴儿七七 by 如果囧 | Historical, HE
Summary: He was the Prime Minister of the Great Chun dynasty, his influence so overbearing that even the Emperor feared him. A stunning man, he had no regard for the lives of others.
And she was just a beggar by the roadside. If not for his callous whipping which left her bruised and battered, she would not have entered his manor by a twist of fate, receiving even more suffering at his hands. The lowly slave, Qi Qi, was destined to live a difficult life from the moment she met him…
Rating: 4/5 | Angst: 3/5
‘Why don’t you cry for help?’
‘No one will come for me.’
Thoughts: The classic romance between a servant and her master, who comes to love her. Being a historical novel, there’s the usual court politics, with the Prime Minister, Xiahou Ling (ML), and the Emperor, Chunyu Zong (2nd ML), having a power struggle, where Qi Qi is used by both as a tool to power play the other.
It’s interesting how Chunyu Zong appears to be the one who treats Qi Qi better as compared to Xiahou Ling, who is tyrannical and appears to have little regard for Qi Qi’s life, but in the end, it is Xiahou Ling who sacrifices and trades his political triumphs for Qi Qi, time and time again.
Abandoned Crown Princess: Ji Jiu’er | 太子弃妃：青楼季九儿 by 如果囧 | Historical, HE
Summary: It turns out, he was the Crown Prince: one who had poisoned his mother, murdered his brother and controlled the Emperor in order to usurp the title of Crown Prince. His ruthlessness and heartlessness caused a wave of horror to ripple across the country.
While he danced in political circles and conspired schemes, she searched tirelessly for him for six years, yet, in the end, all that awaited her was a letter of divorce… It was difficult to fault him for abandoning her so easily. She was just his lowly wife, one who lived and worked in a brothel.
Once, in Shangyang City, the four of them were childhood friends. Now, it turns out that all of them were destined for great things, except for her…
Rating: 5/5 | Angst: 4/5
Even before the dust had settled, it turns out, he had already thought of their future together.
Thoughts: There are four main characters: Ji Jiu’er (FL), Gongzi Ce (ML), Yun Su (2nd FL) and Xiao Liangchen (2nd ML). All of them met in their childhood as friends where Ji Jiu’er, Yun Su and Xiao Liangchen were children doing odd jobs in a brothel, while Gongzi Ce was a very rich young master.
Later, Gongzi Ce bought Yun Su and brought her back to his manor, where she was nurtured to grow up into an aristocrat. Xiao Liangchen left for his studies and returned a marquis. Ji Jiu’er continued working in the brothel to support her ailing mother and young sister. During this time, the romance between Gongzi Ce and Ji Jiu’er blossoms, even though, on the surface, it appears as though the one Gongzi Ce cares for is Yun Su.
Nearing the second half of the novel, it is revealed that Gongzi Ce was a prince of the imperial family, Yun Su the lost daughter of a powerful general and Xiao Liangchen the adopted son of the Emperor’s brother. Of the four of them, only Ji Jiu’er remains unchanged, a low-born commoner.
So when Ji Jiu’er finally finds Gongzi Ce after their six years of separation, what she sees is Gongzi Ce, the Crown Prince, with his wife, Yun Su, the Crown Princess. However, nothing is as it seems…
The Kind Immortal’s Impossible Wish | 良仙难求 by 月落紫珊 | Xuanhuan, Tragedy
Summary: Tianyin spent five hundred years to prove her love to Yan Qi, but no matter how she clung onto him, Yan Qi never turned an eye towards her, so she could only spend another five hundred years trying to forget this love.
Five hundred years later, from a powerful Princess of the Heavens, she became a mortal devoid of celestial powers, while Yan Qi became the Crown Prince of the Heavenly realm. Tianyin treated him with courtesy and respect, no longer following him around, but he started to be unused to this. Where had the old Tianyin, who followed behind him all the time like a little tail, disappeared to?
Rating: 3/5 | Angst: 3/5
All of her feelings congealed into the name which she whispered over and over. She had always been waiting by the side of the River of Forgetfulness, waiting for him to remember her, waiting for him to bring her home.
Thoughts: This book is like Shang Li (Shattered Glass), except it is xuanhuan instead of historical. The same premise: FL (Tianyin) falls in love with the ML (Yan Qi) when they were young and stubbornly clings onto him, but is treated coldly. When they are finally banished because of a crime they committed, their characters change and they become more reserved, their young and innocent spirits smothered by the sufferings they endured. Now, when they meet the ML again, they choose to forget their crush. At the same time, there is a second ML (Lingyue) who treats them very well, but unfortunately, this relationship will never come to materialise either.
Compared to Shattered Glass, Tianyin suffers more than Mei Li. While Jing Xuan realises quite early on that he loves Mei Li (and hence tries to treat her well in his strange manner), Yan Qi doesn’t.
The ending in this novel is also a complete tragedy compared to the bittersweet ending of Shattered Glass. Tianyin will never reincarnate ever again, for her soul is lost forever; Yan Qi lives in regret after realising he was the reason for Tianyin’s death, and that there will never be a second chance for them; Lingyue was forced by the Heavenly Lord to drink the potion of forgetfulness (at Tianyin’s request) and forgets all about Tianyin, although his heart aches whenever someone mentions her name…
Listening Snow Tower: Blood Rose | 听雪楼：血薇 by 沧月 | Wuxia, Tragedy
Summary: From the age of 17 till 24, I held onto my burning resentment and pain. Dreaming of the days of my youth. Saving and protecting; love and forgiveness…
A woman as beautiful and stubborn as a wild rose and a young man as enigmatic as a riddle. This is a stunning and tragic story about the romance between two extraordinary people.
Rating: 4/5 | Angst: 2/5
The human heart was narrow and ambitious. Whether a person killed or was killed was often the product of their actions, so why shift the blame of murder onto the head of a mere sword?
Thoughts: A very famous and well-liked novel in China. The title, Blood Rose (xuewei), refers to the Blood Rose Sword – a legendary demonic sword in the posession of Shu Jingrong, the FL. The story is told from the perspective of the Blood Rose Sword, which was an interesting take.
This is a story about two incredibly talented and over-achieving but stubborn characters, Shu Jingrong and Xiao Yiqing. The prologue already gives away the ending of their romance, a tragedy that resulted from their self-destruction. The rest of the story, told from the perspective of other characters whose paths crossed the main characters’ lives, narrates their lives. Because we know the ending from the onset, a soft sadness persists throughout the book.
As with all of Cang Yue’s books, you can never go wrong with her novels. Whether it’s wuxia or xuanhuan, they’re all well-written.
Hatred of Spring Flowers | 春花厌 by 黑颜 | Historical, HE
Summary: To survive, what can a person do? Mei Lin did not know about the rest, but she could give everything up, including her body and her pride.
She yearned for her life to blossom as uninhibitedly as the flowers blooming in spring, no matter how short-lived it would be. Yet in reality, she lived like the toad in the mud, cowardly and afraid, ugly and filthy. She only knew that one could talk about the future only if they had a life. If you didn’t have a life, what was there to talk about?
Rating: 3/5 | Angst: 2/5
Thoughts: Story about a prince, Murong Jinghe, and an assassin, Mei Lin, who was tasked to infiltrate after being stripped of her martial arts abilities. After spending days together in a calamity, they fall in love. Yet Murong Jinghe is unable to let go of his first love, the General, Muye Luomei, and constantly sacrifices Mei Lin upon Muye Luomei’s pressurising…
Death of a Beauty | 美人殇 by 梦三生 | Historical (Han Dynasty), Time-Travel, HE
Summary: A conspiracy sweeping across the imperial family; a tyrant in command of the army. A vicious matchmaking banquet; an unexpected time-travel.
So, I transformed into Diao Chan – that beautiful, lonely woman accused of bringing a bloodbath to the Three Kingdoms in history.
That man had an ambition which filled the skies, but with a smile from her, he was consigned to eternal damnation. For her, that man dressed in robes as white as snow, whose power rippled across the Three Kingdoms, sacrificed his life.
Rating: 4/5 | Angst: 2/5
If the ending of our story was destined to be one of our parting, would I still choose to have met you? But the Heavens have never given me a choice. Without reason, I was forced to cross a thousand years into this era, to meet a man I should never have met.
Thoughts: This book will be more meaningful for those familiar with the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, because the male lead is Dong Zhuo (Zhongying), a villain in history. However, after An Ruo time travels and becomes Xiao Xiao, we learn that maybe, history isn’t all that clear cut. We meet many historical figures along the way: Lu Bu, Wang Yun, Cao Cao… and see how history cannot be changed. For Xiao Xiao, Zhongying became the despotic tyrant that he is known as in history… fortunately, their story has a silver lining in the 21st century.
Falling Leaves Without Trace | 叶落无痕 by 简暗 | Modern-day, Tragedy, Short Story
Summary: Beyond the windows is the brilliance of the sun,
The gathering of rosy clouds to form a frantic orbit —
It is said that, after our death, our soul will pass by there,
Looking down from above, we will have a final glimpse of the world of the living…
Rating: 5/5 | Angst: 3.5/5
The leaves had fallen. I knew, before long, spring would return, but it would no longer be my season.
Thoughts: A book which is extremely similar to One Night, One Day, One Year, One Lifetime. I think One Lifetime was inspired by it. They have a similar set-up: an unhappy life after marriage, on the path heading towards tragedy, with salvation at the very end. This story is more straightforward though. It lacks the hate in One Lifetime. Cheng Siying is not unscrupulous like He Yujin; Xiao Huan is not tormented like Gao Fei.
I like the way the author depicted Xiao Huan’s character. He treated Cheng Siying poorly in the past, because that’s the way he is. He is an extremely intelligent, overachieving person. Because of that, he values a person’s worth based on their intellect, and whether they are able to keep up with him or not. In comparison, Cheng Siying is an unpretentious but simple woman, and definitely not his intellectual equal, or anywhere close. Xiao Huan’s thought processes really resemble that of many overachieving people I’ve known in real life, so it is extremely realistic.
By the time he finally sees past his ‘intelligence’ to realise how foolish he had been, it’s almost too late. Almost, because at least Xiao Huan and Cheng Siying managed to live the remainder of Cheng Siying’s life in happiness. Too late, because they can never recover the time they had lost. Too late, because the remainder of Cheng Siying’s life is really not long. Too late, because their story ended in a tragedy.
A very beautiful story. The audiobook at Ximalaya is worth a listen, the narrator portrays Cheng Siying’s personality extremely well. Return me my tears…….
7th July: Qing | 七月七日晴 by 楼雨晴 | Modern-day, Incest, Tragedy
Summary: From young, she loved him, like a destiny that could never be changed. Yet she was soon separated from him, and when they finally reunited, three years had already passed. When she was fifteen, he left for his studies in Taipei, cutting off all contact; when she was eighteen, she impulsively rushed over to see him, only to receive sorrow in return. When she was twenty-one, he finally returned, only for their mother’s funeral; when she was twenty-four, he married, and went abroad with his bride… he was once her guardian angel, so gentle and warm as he cared for her. He held her hands, promising that they would always be together. She could lose everything, except for him – the person who knew her best.
7th July is the day the cowherd met the weaver girl. So, can the twenty-seven year old her possess a day of 7th July when the skies are sunny, to see him for the last time?
Rating: 5/5 | Angst: 4/5
Eventually, I understood that everyone’s time allocated to the world was limited. When the time was up, no matter how we could not bear to, still, we had to part…
Thoughts: This is a relatively old story, published in the early 2000s. The title, 7th July, is a reference to Qixi Festival (Chinese Valentine’s Day), originating from the legendary love between a cowherd and a weaver girl.
This is a story about a pair of siblings, Shen Tianqing (FL) and her elder brother, Shen Hanyu (ML). When they were young, they overheard their parents’ conversation to learn that Shen Tianqing was an orphan adopted into their family. Although Shen Tianqing and Shen Hanyu have always been extremely close as siblings, their worlds revolving around the other, this conversation changes the tone of their relationship. By their teens, they begin to realise that their feelings for the other resembles the love between a man and woman.
But one day, as Shen Hanyu confesses to his father his feelings for Shen Tianqing, believing them to be unrelated by blood, their family falls apart – without a word, Shen Hanyu leaves for Taipei, abandoning Shen Tianqing; their father falls ill overnight; their mother becomes very emotional and goes insane, taking her anger out on Shen Tianqing.
Towards the end, Shen Tianqing finally realise the truth of what happened years ago: Shen Hanyu and Shen Tianqing are blood siblings, and Shen Tianqing was never an orphan. That year, when Shen Hanyu confessed his feelings to their father, their father, in his shock, finally reveals the truth, that Shen Tianqing is his child from an affair, making them half-siblings…
This twist is devastating, and effectively destines that no happy ending can result from Shen Hanyu and Shen Tianqing’s love. It is cruel; it is even ironic. In the end, Shen Tianqing is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, the same illness which claimed their father’s life. Yet the last of her days are also the happiest, because in the face of the realities of life, Shen Hanyu and Shen Tianqing finally abandon their reservations and hesitations to spend the rest of her days in happiness together, just like any other pair of lovers… this part was difficult to read. Seeing how deeply they loved each other, but knowing that their happiness is temporal… watching Shen Hanyu desperately treasure every last moment of Shen Tianqing’s life as she wastes away…
After Shen Tianqing’s death, Shen Hanyu carves his name onto her tombstone and disappears… in the final paragraphs of the book, we see Shen Hanyu holding a medical report. On it is the diagnosis ‘multiple sclerosis’, and the patient’s name: Shen Hanyu. Fate is cruel. Shen Tianqing and Shen Hanyu truly are siblings, to the extent that they even inherited the same incurable illness from their father. But Shen Hanyu is not devastated. Instead, he smiles and says, Qing, wait for me.
In a way, death is the only salvation for them… only in death can they be free to love. You can feel Shen Tianqing and Shen Hanyu’s helplessness and love; devastation and desperation; acceptance and despair. There is no way out for them. Despite the nature of their love, I’ve never once felt that their love was ‘impure’ or ‘unnatural’. All I see is a man and woman, so deeply in love, but who can never be together in this life. One of the characters said that if Shen Hanyu and Shen Tianqing were never siblings, they would’ve been the most loving couple in this world… this, I fully agree with.
Hansheng | 憾生 by 绕梁三日 | Modern-Day, Separation & Reunion, Betrayal, Tragedy
Summary: As the years pass, only love will remain shining in its radiance. I smiled, obstinately, only because I knew that when I turned around, I would meet your gaze. An entangled love; a pair of unusual childhood loves. When they met once more, it seemed as though a lifetime had passed, the anguish and love winding around our hearts.
When Hansheng was young, she loved with her whole heart, yet it only made others grow increasingly irritable with her. When Hansheng became an adult, still, she loved. But Tong Yehui deceived her. A plane which vanished over the Pacific Ocean was the chance the Heavens had gifted to Hansheng, to no longer live her life in regret. A new life, quiet, peaceful. But the person who she could never forget even till her death… was it fate, or the misfortune of a lifetime?
Rating: 5/5 | Angst: 4/5
Later, Hansheng understood, her hate towards Tong Yehui was blur and indistinct, her love clear and unmarred…
Thoughts: The title, Hansheng, means to regret life. It is also the name of our female lead, Mo Hansheng. With such a name, one can already imagine the tone of the book. This book has quite a reputation. Nearly every modern-day angst/ tragedy rec list includes this book, so it is another must-read.
Hansheng and Tong Yehui grew up together as relatively poor children. Hansheng was disliked by others, because of her overly enthusiastic and annoying character, and Tong Yehui was the only one who bothered to interact with her. Hansheng’s life revolves around Tong Yehui, even though she knew that he was only making use of her.
In their early twenties, Hansheng stole a sum of money from her mother to give it to Tong Yehui to set up his business. His business soon flourished, but Tong Yehui did not treat Hansheng well. Although Tong Yehui himself is a talented man with acute ability, he could not tolerate the fact that he only achieved success because of Hansheng, something she frequently, carelessly, reminded him of.
One day, Tong Yehui received a tip-off that the authorities were to undergo an investigation regarding tax fraud. Together with Du Cheng, his other childhood friend, they siphoned all the money off their company, made Hansheng the scapegoat. After all, the company belongs to Hansheng in name, since she gave it its capital. During the trial, Hansheng admitted to all the crimes, and was sentenced to five years of imprisonment. Tong Yehui did not visit her once.
The opening of the book starts with Hansheng’s release from imprisonment. During this five years, Tong Yehui has achieved even greater success, and is now a wealthy entrepreneur. Haunted by his guilt, he approaches Hansheng, trying to make amends, but not knowing how. By now, Hansheng is disillusioned and afraid. In the end, Tong Yehui takes Du Cheng’s advice and decide to give Hansheng a huge sum of money and force her to leave for Canada to begin afresh there. He says that it is for Hansheng’s good, but the reader can see that it’s only to assuage his guilt.
Tong Yehui brings Hansheng to the boarding gate, and personally sends her off to board the plane. Finally, he is relieved, a pressure off his shoulders. He thinks to himself that he has done the right thing. He leaves for his business trip for two weeks. Yet when he returns, he receives news: the plane carrying Hansheng to Canada vanished over the Pacific Ocean. There were no survivors…
The finality of death really brings out our deepest feelings. In an instant, Tong Yehui finally understood what he has done. Regret, despair, remorse, even more despair… Tong Yehui lives the next year of his life haunted by regret and the realisation of what Hansheng meant to him, all the feelings which he had buried deep within his heart.
Until, one day, in another island, he happens to come across Hansheng, who had escaped death by fleeing from the plane years ago before its take-off… This is the second chance for Tong Yehui and Hansheng…
Youlan | 幽兰 by 典心 | Historical, Separation & Reunion, Misunderstandings, HE
Summary: Once, Jin Lin thought he had found the love of his life, yet he never imagined that she was merely a beautifully fatal trap. She schemed and betrayed him, causing him to be seized and imprisoned, suffering through three years of torment. For revenge, he survived and returned, promising to make her pay.
This demonic man had seized Youlan! He was ruthless and cruel as he tormented her, but his unchanging face, was the face of the man she had been longing for. The horrifying truth was revealed in an instant. She could not believe that this man who tormented her like a demon, was the same man she had loved so deeply years ago…
Rating: 3/5 | Angst: 2/5
Thoughts: A relatively older book. Years ago, Youlan (FL) saved Jin Lin (ML)’s life, and they fell in love while they were secluded, away from the world. Later, because of political reasons, Youlan’s brother seized and imprisoned Jin Lin, and led him to believe that Youlan had betrayed him. In his three years of imprisonment, after watching several of his comrades lose their lives because of him, Jin Lin vowed revenge on Youlan…
I’ve heard about this book for some time from Dian Xin’s fans… It’s one of her more heartwrenching novels, the other being Huamei. This is a short novel, and reads as an entry-level angst novel I think… Start with this book if you’re new to this genre, but give it a miss if you’re looking for something more heartwrenching.
Song in the Clouds | 云中歌 by 桐华 | Historical (Han Dynasty), Politics, Tragedy
Summary: During the Han Dynasty, the eight year old Emperor Zhao of Han, Liu Fuling, was pursued as he fled to the barren desert stretching on for miles. As he walked on without a hope in sight, a green-robed girl riding on a Snow Camel, Yun Ge, appeared out of nowhere, bringing him out from the desert. The cold and reserved Liu Fuling was moved by the lively Yun Ge, and they exchanged a token, promising to reunite ten years later in the city of Chang’an.
Ten years later, Yun Ge arrives at Chang’an to search for Liu Fuling. But not only did Liu Fuling forget their promise, there was now a kind and beautiful woman by his side, Xu Pingjun. Devastated, Yun Ge was about to return to the deserts, yet she crosses path with a stunning and persistent man, Meng Jue. Yun Ge thought that her life of happiness was to begin here, only to be embroiled in the power struggles of the crown…
Rating: 5/5 | Angst: 3/5
He once thought that as long as the both of them were willing, he would be able to hold her hand and watch the clouds unfold within the skies and the flowers bloom within the courtyard, until their hairs turned grey. But it turns out, even after he tried his best, death was able to divide them.
Thoughts: Song in the Clouds.. this was a book which had been on my to-read list for the longest time, after I chanced upon this ranking of the most heartwrenching historical romances.
Because #1, Song in the Clouds, was a tragedy, I skipped it and went to read #2, MGT, and the rest of all the novels on the list. Now, a long time later, I finally came back to read Song in the Clouds.
Song in the Clouds is based on historical figures in the Han Dynasty, specifically during the later years of Emperor Zhao and the beginning of Emperor Xuan’s reigns. Although it’s touted as a romance novel, I felt that this was 50% politics, 30% romance, 20% friendship. Yun Ge was the titular character, but this story greatly extended beyond her. Through her eyes, we were brought back to a tumultuous time in history.
You will see many familiar names: Liu Fuling (Emperor Zhao), Liu Xun (Emperor Xuan), Xu Pingjun, Huo Chengjun, Huo Guang, etc in history. To me, the heaviness in Song in the Clouds doesn’t come from the romance, but from knowing the ending of these characters in history, and then having to read about their happier times when you know that none of it will end well, given Tong Hua’s tendency to be faithful to history like in BBJX.
Tong Hua’s open letter to the two male leads, Liu Fuling and Meng Jue, has been translated here, and you can see the amount of thought she gave to each character…
To Our Ten Years | 十年一品温如言 by 书海沧生 | Modern-Day, Military Families, HE
Rating: 5/5 | Angst: 3.5/5
Summary & Thoughts: I have lost count of the number of times I’ve seen this book recommended by its fans. The general consensus seems to be that this is a book which is difficult to get into, but those who continue to read on will fall in love with it.
And this was true. I think I abandoned this book at least three times, before I finally finished it in my fourth attempt at reading it. Thinking back, I am super grateful to all the people who have recommended this book, over and over. Without them, I’d never have given this book another (x4) chance. Without them, I’d have missed this book, never come to know Yan Xi and Wen Heng, two unforgettable characters.
Ten years of their lives, narrated in a novel. I feel as though I’ve aged ten years just reading this book. I’m sure, somewhere out there in the world, Yan Xi and Wen Heng exist. How could they not? They are so incredibly real and vivid in my mind.
Yan Xi and Wen Heng – two people who fit so perfectly, I don’t even have the words to describe it.
Wen Heng – the best female character I’ve ever read about. She is the kind of person you look up to, and want to become. Wen Heng, the lost daughter of the Wen family. Shortly after her birth, she was given away to the Yun family to raise, and in her place, the Wen family took on her substitute: Wen Si’er. Everything that should have been Wen Heng’s, her mother, father, brother – her family – became Wen Si’er’s. While Wen Si’er lived in comfort and wealth, Wen Heng lived in the countryside of Jiangnan, taking care of her sick brother.
Later, when she was 15, the Wen family brought her back to their home, and made Wen Si’er leave. The original daughter of the Wen family had returned, so the substitute should leave. All is well now, back to what it should’ve been, right?
No. Wen Heng, the blood relation of the Wen family, was treated like a stranger in her home. From the coldness of her mother and brother, who resented her for ‘making’ Wen Si’er leave, to their strange politeness as they treated her like a guest in her own home – this was Wen Heng’s teenage years.
Her name, Si’er, was taken by another girl. Her birthday, was celebrated for that girl. Her mother and brother, viewed her as an outsider. Because the fifteen years they spent with Wen Si’er could not be replaced, even if Wen Si’er was not related to them by blood.
But, Wen Heng met Yan Xi. Yan Xi said, thank you for being Ah Heng. Not Yun Heng, not Wen Heng, but Yan Xi’s Ah Heng.
Wen Heng met Yan Xi through her brother, Wen Siwan.
Two children, abandoned by their families.
The first volume was written so poignantly. The author’s words just seized my heart. I couldn’t stop reading once I got into the story. The way Wen Heng and Yan Xi, two people, who had nothing in common except for what Yan Xi described as their love for pork ribs, came to be so comfortable with each other, and depend on the other.
I don’t know if I should say this is a heartbreaking or a heartwarming story. Yan Xi and Wen Heng led difficult lives, but the fact that they had the other, made everything better. When Wen Heng was ignored, deliberately or otherwise, by her family, Yan Xi was there.
I remember one scene. After Wen Heng was abandoned by the Wen family, for 15 years, she celebrated her birthday on the day she was abandoned, while her real birthday became Wen Si’er’s, because Wen Si’er was her substitute who led her life on her behalf. On that day, the Wen family celebrated Wen Si’er’s birthday, deliberately ignoring the fact that this was really Wen Heng’s birthday, not Wen Si’er’s. They said, this was for Wen Heng’s sake, because Wen Heng would be unaccustomed to having a different birthday all of a sudden.
But Yan Xi said, did you realise that Wen Heng’s so-called birthday which she had led for the last 15 years, was also the day she was abandoned by the Wen family? Why do you assume that Wen Heng would be unwilling to celebrate her real birthday? Why should Wen Heng pretend to be another person, when she has finally returned to her family?
Yan Xi celebrated her birthday for her. Yan Xi, without caring for what anyone else thought, celebrated Wen Heng’s birthday for her.
‘Ah Heng, happy birthday.’
‘My birthday is on the 28th of December, not today.’
‘That day was the way our Ah Heng could not find her way home, not the day our Ah Heng was born.’ Yan Xi smiled. Gently, he held Ah Heng, yet his two arms were wound tight around her as he said quietly, ‘Ah Heng, happy birthday.’
He wanted her to exist proudly in this world, without hiding away. 1.35 pm on the 10th of January was the moment when her heart first began to beat in this world. He wanted her to stop remembering how she was abandoned on the 28th of December, every birthday.
This was not a regret that could be erased with an extravagant celebration on the 7th floor of the hotel. This was not a hurt that could be wiped away by having the same treatment as Wen Si’er.
He only wanted to tell her, how grateful he was, that she was came to exist in this world.
Yan Xi – Ah Heng’s beacon of warmth during those years.
Their relationship was so perfectly balanced. Instead of saying Wen Heng needed Yan Xi, they were both there for the other.
Yan Xi – my favourite male lead. Yan Xi, another child abandoned by his family.
Who was Yan Xi? The beautiful Yan Xi who was shone so brilliantly, the short-tempered Yan Xi, the Yan Xi who loved to eat pork ribs, the Yan Xi who loved the colour pink, the Yan Xi who drove all his friends up the wall with his crazy antics. Yan Xi, someone with a childhood that no one should have gone through.
When the truth was revealed, Wen Heng was there for Yan Xi. When everyone wanted Yan Xi to be committed to the mental institution, Wen Heng was the one who brought Yan Xi out, and stayed by his side. Even when Yan Xi began to lose his speech and forget his memories, Wen Heng was there.
08-69, their home. Yan Xi’s home, where Ah Heng was.
‘Yan Xi, don’t forget, the way home.’
The way Ah Heng cared for Yan Xi, and never once gave up on him, even if everyone else, his family and his friends, did, and told her that she should move on with her life.
‘Next year, you will be 19 years old, then 20, then 30, and you will marry, have children, a complete family and a very good job. When you are 40, you will worry about your kids, feel worn out from work, and occasionally wish to stroll in the forest with your husband. When you are 50, and your children have all grown up, beginning to leave your home, you and your husband will depend on each other. When you are 60, you will be enjoying your late years with your grandchildren by your side. When you are 70, perhaps you will sit on your wheelchair, thinking back on your life, and then you would close your eyes, and maybe, your life will come to an end.
‘But Yan Xi…
‘When you are 18, he is 17. When you are 19, he is 17. When you are 70, still, Yan Xi is 17. Perhaps he will never grow up in his entire life, and you, without realising it, will already grow old. Where do you think, Yan Xi will be?’
The way the gentle and kind Ah Heng finally lost her temper when she realised what Lin Ruomei had done to Yan Xi – that woman who Yan Xi treated like his own mother.
And, Yan Xi recovered. With Ah Heng, Yan Xi walked out of the darkest period of their lives. Yan Xi returned to school; they studied. When Ah Heng and Yan Xi planned for their universities together, I thought, everything was going to be okay now. Ah Heng has begun to grow closer to her family, and Yan Xi has finally left his past behind.
All would be fine now. But, no. Everything fell apart in volume 2, after the death of Wen Heng’s father. Wen Heng was accused of causing his death, and was completely cut away from the Wen family. In that time, Yan Xi and Ah Heng lived apart. To Ah Heng, Yan Xi was so far away, the untouchable person who shone so brightly in the limelight as he found success. She followed his news, like any other dedicated fan, far from the distance, never able to reach him.
But she never knew that she was never truly alone. Yan Xi followed her for an entire year, watching over her in the shadows. He entreated for Gu Feibai, the man her father arranged for her to marry, to treat his Ah Heng well, not daring to approach. Yan Xi was always watching over her, even if Ah Heng never realised.
Yan Xi – DJ Yan, the man whose brilliance could not be covered, who constantly repeated to the world his name: Yan Xi, Yan Xi, so the Ah Heng who sat behind the radio, could hear.
If you found another Prince, and he were not as good as I am, what should you do.
And, if he were better than I was, then, what… should I do?
I remember, Yan Xi once said that without his phone, he could not sleep. Because in Yan Xi’s phone was a recording of Ah Heng’s voice.
Yan Xi, good night.
Even as they led their lives apart, Yan Xi never once forgotten Ah Heng.
A choice. As the novel progressed, it became clear that this was something Yan Xi had never been given.
Why, did no one ever ask me, what I wanted.
Ask me, if I ever wanted to love a man.
Ask me, if I were a fool, for walking into your schemes, time after time.
Nor did anyone tell me, if I could marry Ah Heng.
Ten years of their lives. From their childhood to their 20s, we followed Wen Heng and Yan Xi’s lives for ten years. Two extremely real people – I know they must be out there in the world; together; happily; forever.
Yan Xi, Ah Heng. 言希，阿衡。My favourite pair of characters across all c-novels I’ve read ♥
There Was Once a Person, Who Loved Me With His Life | 曾有一个人，爱我如生命 by 舒仪 | Modern-Day, Mafia, Tragedy
Summary: If, back then, I had been braver, would our stories have ended differently. If, back then, you persisted, would our memories have been different?
Rating: 5/5 | Angst: 3.5/5
My girl, I wish you a lifetime of happiness and bliss.
Thoughts: I had an entire novel’s worth of time to prepare myself for that ending, but still, it got to me.
From the title, there was once a person, you can imagine the story, and the way it would have ended. Reading about Zhao Mei and Sun Jiayu’s time together, seeing how they made plans to abandon their current lives, entangled with the darker side of the law, to start afresh… Seeing how they had hopes of a better time together, and knowing this would never happen…
I wish, Zhao Mei and Sun Jiayu never survived that snowstorm. Perhaps that would have been a better ending for them.
Sun Jiayu. There no longer exists a man named Sun Jiayu in this world.
I knew it would happen. I knew. The title was already a giveaway.
But it still got to me. Some people said they sighed after reading this story.
They sighed. I cried, and cried, and then cried somemore.
I don’t know why. Sometimes, I feel that tragedies are a hit or miss. Either you really feel for the characters, and your heart dies along with them, or you’re desensitised to them, and the way their stories play out.
For me, this novel was a hit. Sun Jiayu and Zhao Mei, a simple story about a girl who studied music and fell in love with a man with a complicated background.
Cinderella’s Dream | 佳期如梦 by 匪我思存 | Modern-Day, Illness, Tragedy
Summary: Often, we let go, thinking that this was just a relationship, only to realise that this was the entirety of our lives. A young love, cut short due to their incompatible family classes.
The affluent Meng Heping struggled to sustain his relationship with Jiaqi, yet she turned and left decisively. As her father passed away and her family fell apart, she had given up too much for this relationship, and wished to leave, bringing with her the last of her dignity.
Yet the sudden appearance of Ruan Zhengdong, an enigma, a man whose overbearing temperament was the antithesis of Meng Heping, changed things. Was his actions the product of revenge, or flirting? In a bustling city, the three of them crossed paths…
Rating: 4/5 | Angst: 3/5
In the past, I thought that by giving up, I could fulfil the happiness of others. Only after the years passed did I realise I was wrong, for our sacrifices will not allow others to attain happiness. Because for a person who truly loved, even if the other were to leave, still, it would not make him stop loving.
Thoughts: Jiaqi Ru Meng – a classic tragedy from Fei Wo Si Cun, and another must-read of this genre.
You Jiaqi; Ruan Zhengdong; Meng Heping. Three lives and a simple story between them. This is a story where there seems to be no perfect answer. You Jiaqi, a woman hovering between two men – her first love, who she gave up because of their incompatible families, and the man who appeared in his life years later.
Ruan Zhengdong and Meng Heping. No matter who Jiaqi chose, both of them were too good. Do such men really exist in our world?
But, it is clear that Jiaqi has moved on from Meng Heping. Theirs was a love from their youth, when they were still young. Years later, Jiaqi has truly fallen for Ruan Zhengdong, only, this love was never destined to end happily.
The ending is similar to There Was Once a Person, Who Loved Me With His Life, but the crucial difference was: Jiaqi left, knowingly and willingly, in accordance to Ruan Zhengdong’s final wishes. But Zhao Mei never knew, until it was too late, and Sun Jiayu no longer existed in this world. So I think that Jiaqi’s ending was slightly better than Zhao Mei’s…
Stunning Allure | 绝色倾城 by飞烟 | Modern-Day, Revenge, Tragedy
Summary: ‘Stunning Allure’ is Asia’s most decadent nightclub, a world where men wielded absolute power. The orphan Lu Weixi experienced the most humiliating night of her life within the VIP room of that nightclub after offending Ling Luochuan, a wealthy young man, only to be saved by his best friend, Ruan Shaonan.
Lu Weixi thought she had escaped catastrophe, but never did she expect her mild-mannered saviour to offer her a high price for her first night a week later. She knew that Ruan Shaonan’s intentions were deeper than they seemed, for beneath his gentle demeanor, he concealed a terrifying secret.
Only when Ruan Shaonan’s tall body towered over her, and in the softest voice, whispered into her ear, ‘Weixi, you are mine…’ did Weixi finally understand that the life she had ran away from 7 years ago had finally returned to haunt her…
Rating: 5/5 | Angst: 3.5/5
If I could choose, I would rather live in hunger, poverty and sickness than to meet you in our next lives.
Thoughts: This was one of the first stories I found on SSB back when I first started reading c-novels. Their comments section gave away the majority of the plot, so for the longest time, I shelved this book and didn’t dare to touch it.
This novel doesn’t present anything “new” to those well-acquainted with modern-day revenge trope angst novels. The same set up: ML (Ruan Shaonan) seeks revenge on FL (Lu Weixi) and her family because of a wrong they had done to him years back, deceiving and making use of FL in the process. When he succeeds in his revenge, he abandons the FL, leaving her in a state worse than death.
I preferred Feiyan’s novel compared to other books with similar themes because she manages to convey a sense of tragedy which most other novels lack: an acute sense of stunning cruelty, for a lack of better phrase.
This is a novel where there are no winners.
My favourite angst novels are those written by Mo Wu Bi Ge, who is also the author of 再生缘：我的温柔暴君 (Love in Another Life: My Gentle Tyrant).
Spoilers & review for her historical romances here.
Mo Wu Bi Ge writes the best romance/angst novels! (at least, the kind that I like to read) Although her novels are less heavy than true tragedies such as Shattered Glass or Hansheng etc, I’ve shed way more tears in her books than all the other books in this list combined. There’s just something about her writing, plot, and characters that resonates with me. 🙂 I think all of us have a favourite author in our hearts, one whose books you’ll never get bored of. For me, MWBG is that author.
& if you know other similar stories, rec me! 🙂
desperate for stories
I’ll update this list when I remember/find more novels, but if you need even more, check out this baike page (chinese equivalent of wiki) for a comprehensive list of angst novels. Sorted by modern day/ historical and straight/slash.