Drama ReviewRomanceThe Youth Memories Drama Review

"I enjoyed this The Youth Memories drama very much. It was captivating to say the least."

The Youth Memories Drama Review

  • Title: The Youth Memories
  • Also Known As: Where Dreams Begin, 梦中的那片海 / Meng Zhong De Na Pian Hai
  • Director: Fu Ning
  • Casts: Xiao Zhan, Li Qin, Liu Rui Lin, Cao Fei Ran, Zhao Xin, Cui Hang
  • Screenwriter: Xu Bing, Zhou He Yang
  • Genres: Period, Romance, Life, Youth, Drama
  • Country: China
  • Episodes: 38
  • Release date: June 13, 2023
  • Original Network: CCTV, Tencent
  • Where to Watch: Tencent or WeTV

Another exciting drama to fill your days. This time, it is a period drama starring Xiao Zhan and Li Qin, The Youth Memories. It is one of the new Chinese dramas premier in June 2023. As a Xiao Zhan fan, needless to say I have been looking forward to it. Let’s see how it fairs.

The Youth Memories Synopsis

Set in the 1970s, at the turn of the era of Reforms and Opening Up of the country, Xiao Chun Sheng along with his other childhood friends in the military compound awaited their turn to enlist in the army. Considered to be the most charismatic and the leader of his peers, he spent his days idling while worrying whether his father’s military case review will impact his enlistment.

During this time, he often sneaked into the storage room in the military compound that stored all the banned books, including foreign and imported ones. He would read them and spend his afternoon there. This was the place where he first ‘met’ Tong Xiao Mei.

Although he never met her in person, but her footprints on the dusty floor led Xiao Chun Sheng to the books she was reading. He immediately took an interest in her and her unique mind.

On the day they were about to meet face to face, two officers on guard busted in on them and almost caught them both. Xiao Chun Sheng decided to turn himself in and gave time for Tong Xiao Mei to escape. To remember her by, he took her hand drawn bookmark and left her a note. They had missed the chance to know of each other’s identity.

Meanwhile, Ye Guo Hua, one of Xiao Chun Sheng’s closest buddies, met the love of his life when he saw He Hong Ling rode the public bus. He followed her on his bicycle but fell on his face when he was careless. He immediately asked Xiao Chun Sheng to make a sketching of her and help him look for He Hong Ling.

Thus the youths’ journey to adulthood began, through the intricacies of romantic relationship, friendships, fulfilling careers and ideals, and comprehending their purpose and direction in life. All the while navigating through the dynamics that was the change brought forward by the country’s reform era.

The Youth Memories Review

This drama tells such a wonderful story made all the more poignant through Xiao Zhan’s gripping performance as Xiao Chun Sheng. He was so in tune with Xiao Chun Sheng’s emotion that the scenes felt natural and his feelings were conveyed without the need of so many words. Many times tears were streaming down my face without me even realizing it. This drama is a must for a Xiao Zhan fan.

The story itself was riveting, following the story of the youths with different characters and disposition. Each and every one has their own charms and was entertaining to watch and follow to the end.

Despite the comments online by netizens slamming some characters more than others, I feel there was no clear right and wrong or that one character was inherently evil and the others are perfect angels without flaw. Everyone made their mistakes and each decision can be said to be justified. Sometimes that was just how life works. Story plots like this makes me contemplate and reflect on life a lot haha, but I personally love it.

The Youth Memories Drama Review - group poster
The Youth Memories Drama Review

For example the relationship between Xiao Chun Sheng and He Hong Ling. I have seen how online comments would say that He Hong Ling was selfish, but I cannot entirely blame her, she did what she did to pursue her dream. It was not easy to let your passion go, especially after you have built your entire life around it. It could also be that she has not met the right person yet that could truly make her feel that compromising with her dream was worth it.

This may not be a popular opinion, but I cannot help but feel that He Hong Ling was human after all. It was only natural for her to make the decision for the sake of chasing her dream. But she should have made peace with herself and accepted the consequences.

Xiao Chun Sheng said it best about how they were like two parallel lines which tried to do their best to be close to one another, but in the end they were heading towards different destination; they will never intersect.

In addition to the characters that could be real people you meet in your everyday life, I love how the deep friendship was portrayed between the characters. To be honest, although I have watched many dramas revolving around friendships and camaraderie, I have never seen one quite like this before. It was something special and touched a soft spot in my heart.

Overall, this drama deserves your time. It is rated as top 3 dramas in my region which is quite a feat for a period drama, a genre that is less preferable more often than not.

The Cinematography

It must have taken a lot of work to bring old Beijing back to life. I can imagine it must have brought back a lot of nostalgia to the viewers. The buildings, the street vendors, the ice rink, the costumes, every aspect big and small seemed to be considered carefully to portray the Beijing in the 1970s in everyone’s mind. It was a huge undertaking but it was executed well. I felt lost in time and was able to immerse myself in that era.

The Youth Memories Drama Review - Couple

Having said that, although this may also be realistic of that time but I saw multiple costumes repeated many times and the same sets reused for supposedly different locations in the story. It does not negatively affect the story in any way, but I cannot help but notice these things.

However, the cinematography seemed to have achieved the director’s intention and caught the attention of the viewers. This drama became a hot topic in June and viewers like myself, felt touched by the strength and tenacity of the youths in the story.

The Casts and Characters

Xiao Zhan as Xiao Chun Sheng

In my opinion, this is another performance of Xiao Zhan where he shines. I have to wonder how he is able to channel characters so well the way he does. My guess is he must be one of those people that are considered empaths who have keen ability in sensing other people’s feelings and thoughts. This can be a great asset for an actor. In any case, I truly enjoyed his performance and my admiration for him significantly grew.

The Youth Memories Drama Review - Xiao Zhan as Xiao Chun Sheng
The Youth Memories Drama Review – Xiao Zhan as Xiao Chun Sheng

Xiao Chun Sheng is a very interesting character. It was clear that he stood out among his peers. He was the leader, the ‘big brother’ of everyone, and he took his role to heart. He was upright, brave, heroic, idealistic, almost to the point of naïve and a responsible character.

It seems that he truly viewed the world as black and white. Even so, he was also equipped with streets smarts and sharp wit. In short, a formidable and charismatic character who has the potential to succeed in everything he does.

It was no mystery why the boys look up to him and many girls admire him. Xiao Chun Sheng was also aware of his own strengths and charm and he took it with pride.

Xiao Chun Sheng has always aspired to be a soldier. He felt it was his lifelong duty to defend the country and protect the people. It was probably why he spent the better part of his youth to cultivate himself to be the hero that was worthy for the people.

He thought he was on his way to fulfill his purpose when he finally could serve in the army. But as life would have it, his fate took a dramatic turn when he was severely injured in a battle. He had to retire early and was now left to pick up where he left off. He had to figure out from the start where his place in life was, what his purpose was and what he was going to do in the future.

The story took a ‘never give up’ attitude which I really appreciate. It would be understandable if Xiao Chun Sheng had felt beaten down and lost. He could no longer do the only thing he knew and was trained to do.

I broke down during the scene where he went into his father’s room. His father had just passed and his medals were laid down on display in his room. Xiao Chun Sheng held the medals, caressed them and tears rolled down his face.The viewers could feel his overwhelming emotion, the broken dreams and the disappointment in himself that he must have felt.

However, instead of letting himself wallow in self pity, he looked towards the future with optimism and hope. He decided to be courageous and faced reality and started life all over again.

Li Qin as Tong Xiao Mei

I also admire Li Qin’s portrayal of Tong Xiao Mei. It was the right amount of virtuous, selfless, timidity, confidence and courage. She was not domineering but we can see she was headstrong. She was steadfast in everything she decided to do and this is a very charming trait that I like in a heroine.

The Youth Memories Drama Review - Li Qin as Tong Xiao Mei
The Youth Memories Drama Review – Li Qin as Tong Xiao Mei

If there was any twin soul in the world, then Tong Xiao Mei can be said as the twin soul of Xiao Chun Sheng. She persevered in doing the right thing even when she would suffer because of it. Her courage, strong will, selflessness and unyielding character even when she did things unconventionally, reminded me of none other than Xiao Chun Sheng.

Tong Xiao Mei made her sacrifices not only because she thought it was only right to do so, but also because it made her happy. She recognized herself in Xiao Chun Sheng and her devotion for him was without expecting anything in return. It was a selfless love that tickled the heart of the viewers.

Xiao Tong Mei aspired to be a doctor during the time when it was challenging to be one. Her parents urged her to enlist the army to join the art troupe. But she persisted in pursuing her dream instead.

Knowing that Xiao Chun Sheng would be able to join the army, she gave her precious quota to He Hong Ling so that she could join Xiao Chun Sheng to enlist together. This would mean that Tong Xiao Mei will be left behind, but she was happy in knowing that Xiao Chun Sheng would be together with his beloved.

When Xiao Chun Sheng suffered his life altering injury, Tong Xiao Mei made the decision to put her career on hold to help Xiao Chun Sheng recover.

Liu Rui Lin as Ye Guo Hua

In this drama, Liu Rui Lin portrays Ye Guo Hua. I enjoyed his performance in portraying the shift in charisma for Ye Guo Hua; from the childhood best friend who admired Xiao Chun Sheng, to the platoon leader who was responsible for his squad.

The Youth Memories Drama Review - Liu Rui Lin as Ye Guo Hua
The Youth Memories Drama Review – Liu Rui Lin as Ye Guo Hua

As an individual, Ye Guo Hua was everything a promising youth should be. He was capable, strong, smart, upright and devoted. But next to Xiao Chun Sheng, he seemed to always loose his shine. I had thought that this dilemma might cause the breakdown between him and Xiao Chun Sheng, but I’m glad that he could see the bigger picture and that he cherished his brotherhood with Xiao Chun Sheng.

Ye Guo Hua looked up to Xiao Chun Sheng and likewise he also aspired to become a soldier together with Xiao Chun Sheng. His family background was actually better than Xiao Chun Sheng and it would help him to realize his dream. But it felt like he wanted to become a soldier and serve the country only because it was Xiao Chun Sheng’s dream.

Perhaps always being Xiao Chun Sheng’s shadow and be protected by him throughout his life, made Ye Guo Hua doubted himself and hesitated in his resolve. He realized his shortcoming when He Hong Ling walked into his life.

Ye Guo Hua’s character development was one I found very fascinating to see. He seemed real, with all his weaknesses and vulnerability. He needed a chance to grow and figure out his own identity away from the shadow of Xiao Chun Sheng.

Cao Fei Ran as He Hong Ling

Cao Fei Ran is a relatively new face in the industry. In the behind the scenes footage I sometimes see her being shy and reserve, and tried her best to stay in character. Her performance could be considered as a success. She was able to portray He Hong Ling’s charm perfectly.

The Youth Memories Drama Review - Cao Fei Ran as He Hong Ling
The Youth Memories Drama Review – Cao Fei Ran as He Hong Ling

He Hong Ling was the character whom the netizens love to bash the most haha. But to be honest, I think her character was just her being practical and real in living her life.

He Hong Ling lived a hard life with her mother. All her life and throughout her career she was surrounded by people who often reminded her that she has the potential to shine and she must not squander the opportunities in life for love. In the end, her idealistic self admitted defeat and she made the hard decision to pursue her dream at the cost of her love.

He Hong Ling’s hard life has taught her not to waste good opportunities and always look for the easy way out. It may not be commendable at times, but she survived her harsh life with these skills. Hence this is how I defend He Hong Ling and justify her actions hahaha. It does not mean that I support what she did, it just means that I understand where she was coming from.

Zhao Xin as Ye Fang

This is my first time watching Zhao Xin’s performance and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Ye Fang was such a unique character, I think I might really like her in real life. She was one of those friends who was not afraid to be honest with you for your own good.

The Youth Memories Drama Review - Zhao Xin as Ye Fang
The Youth Memories Drama Review – Zhao Xin as Ye Fang

Ye Fang was a good judge of character. She was the one who recognized the conflicting behavior in He Hong Ling. She warned her that unless He Hong Ling reconciled the two emotions in her heart, whether to pursue her ideals or give in to the pressures of life, she will never find happiness or contentment.

Ye Fang was one of those characters who seemed harsh, but she actually valued friendship and honor. Unfortunately, most times her mouth does not have a filter and she would often say things that were too blunt that people may not be ready or willing to accept her opinion.

Nevertheless, she was one of my favorite characters. She stayed true to herself and she had incredible insight. I would love to see a character like this as the main lead and just watch her deal with every day life hahaha.

Cui Hang as Chen Hong Jun

Chen Hong Jung came into the screen as a cowardly character who tried his best to prove himself. His timid and shy character attracted Ye Fang who was bossy by nature. I can understand why Ye Fang chose him but I was also surprised that she did not realize how Chen Hong Jun would take offense by what she said.

The Youth Memories Drama Review - Cui Hang as Chen Hong Jun
The Youth Memories Drama Review – Cui Hang as Chen Hong Jun

I guess Ye Fang’s character was so strong that she found it difficult to yield to someone else. The timid Chen Hong Jun may have been perfect for Ye Fang. But the Chen Hong Jun who was determined to prove his worth would conflict Ye Fang too much.

Final Comments

Although I cannot relate to China in the 1970s in any way, and I may not understand some context during this tumultuous time, I enjoyed this The Youth Memories drama very much. It was captivating to say the least. It reminded me of the 1998 drama Old House Has Joy starring Vicky Zhao and Alec Su. The nostalgic feeling was similar.

The uplifting stories and the positive attitude of the characters give the viewers hope and a more positive outlook on life. Definitely worth your time to watch the entire 38 episodes of it.

The Dewi
The Dewi
"I am so clever that sometimes I don't understand a single word I'm saying"


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"I enjoyed this The Youth Memories drama very much. It was captivating to say the least."The Youth Memories Drama Review
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