If you have nothing else to do this summer …

… you might want to consider watching a very long 2019 TV series, “The Longest Day in Chang’An”. Intrigued that this series received very strong recommendations despite its 48 (!) episode length, I watched the first episode on viki.com – rather suspecting it would be just another overblown historical romp, the equivalent of a James Bond movie set in Ancient China. But it is instead a very strong drama, well-made and with a thought-provoking complex plot. I was hooked.

The core action takes place in the capital city of Chang’An (“Perpetual Peace”), near modern Xi’an in Western China, sometime during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD), on the day of the great annual Lantern Festival celebration. There is the added element that the Emperor is rumored to be planning to make a major announcement at the 2 am banquet.

The authorities suspect that a foreign terrorist group is planning to disrupt the Festival. The young, very intense head of the Peacekeeper Corps takes the unprecedented step of putting a death row convict in charge of tracking down the terrorists. Said convict is a former soldier and police officer who was on death row for having killed his superior officer in murky circumstances.

Of course, there are lots of the action scenes expected in this kind of Chinese historical drama – street fights, chases across rooftops, galloping horses, fires, explosions, and a substantial body count. However, much more important to the drama are the discussions between various participants as each struggles with the conflict between following orders or doing the right thing, obeying his conscience or succumbing to the temptations of the city. Some individuals feel the pressure to live up to the standards of their ancestors and be a credit to their descendants; others seek only opportunities to advance their status.

As the plot develops, it becomes clear that the terrorists are merely the tip of an iceberg of chaos in a city riven by competing factions within the vast bureaucracy. The ageing Emperor has apparently lost touch with the people, the economy has declined due to excessive taxation, and the poor have become further impoverished. Without slowing the drama, the writers managed to squeeze in issues around international relations, tax policy, and budgets. The mystery of who is really pulling the strings keeps the enthralled viewer guessing to the end.

The acting is excellent, the filming is often superb, and the sets are extravagant. Historically accurate? I doubt it! For example, the series features many significant female characters – the spoiled daughter of a prominent family; a headstrong young woman intent on revenging her father’s death; a smart resourceful servant; a tormented assassin; the Emperor’s stunningly beautiful concubine; and more. Yet not one of these women has bound feet, which was a practice that became widespread during the Tang Dynasty.

To add to the mix, there is that puckish Chinese sense of humor. One of the female characters is the leader of a troop of entertainers competing for the opportunity to play for the Emperor at the Lantern Festival. Following a very impressive street performance, the excited crowd starts to chant her name. The writers chose to call her Xu He Zi – which makes it seem that the Chinese crowd is chanting USA! USA!

At 48 episodes of about 40 minutes each, this is a substantial commitment of time. But some may find it to be well worth while.


Thanks for this. I suspect my wife will get hooked, once I tell her about it. She has spent many, many hours (though not in the past few months) watching Chinese productions.


In looking at the subscription, it seems the only plan available is 720p, which they refer to as HD. How did you find the picture quality? We are really spoiled - watching most of our programming on a new Samsung OLED in 4K (also excellent sound with optional sound bar, perfectly integrated). It really is a great viewing experience, especially with sumptuous historical dramas with great surroundings and costumes. I would value your impressions (though we will likely do the 7 day free trial).


I live in a rural area, at the end of a long line of radio connections to get to a fiber optic genuine high speed gateway. The limiting factor in this area is internet download speed. For people like me way out in the boonies (30 mile round trip to get to a Post Office, for example), 720p is indeed HD. :grinning:

There may be other screening services which offer faster speeds/better definition. viki.com was simply the first one I tried. Good luck finding something more appropriate to your situation … and spare a thought for those of us less fortunate.


I’m a huge fan of Chinese historical films. In particular, two of my favorites:

Plus a Russian one about Mongol history: