Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji (Xiao Zhan and Wang Yibo) in a scene of The C-Drama The Untamed

How to Read, Watch, and Listen to Everything Related to ‘The Untamed’ and ‘Mo Dao Zu Shi’


I recently followed a very good friend of mine into the whole Mo Dao Zu Shi/The Untamed spiral—and landed into full hyper fixation territory. There’s never a moment these days when I’m not thinking about Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji and their beautifully-crafted story, which is why I feel it’s my duty and honor to guide you all into the spiral with me.

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Where can you watch and stream The Untamed? Or where can you read Mo Dao Zhu Shi? And why does it have two titles? Are they the same thing? Fear not, for I’m here to share my newly-acquired knowledge with everyone who might need it.

Number one reason to get into this whole circus: Wei Wuxian, aka the Yiling Laozu. (Tencent Video)

Mo Dao Zu Shi explained

So, everything begins with Mo Dao Zu Shi—known in English as The Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation or The Founder of Diabolism (even though the more accurate translation should be something along the lines of Demonic Path Ancestral Master). It’s a Chinese novel written between 2015 and 2016 by author Mo Xiang Tong Xiu and originally published on the online platform JJXWC (before being picked up by traditional publishing). It’s widely considered one of the most famous and acclaimed examples of both the modern danmei and xianxia literary genres, and its complex plot will definitely keep you intrigued until the very last page—as will the heartbreaking romance.

Mo Dao Zu Shi is the original story of Wei Wuxian, Lan Wangji, and the colorful cast of characters that surround them—so if you want to enter this world right from its starting point, then this should be your first choice. You can find several amateur translations of the entire novel online, but Mo Dao Zu Shi is also finally getting an official English translation—which is being released by Seven Seas. There will be five volumes in total. The first one came out in December 2021, the second is scheduled for mid-May 2022, and the third for mid-August 2022.

The Untamed explained

If you prefer getting into the story with some visual aid, though, you can turn to Netflix to watch Cheng Qing Ling—or The Untamed. The Untamed is a C-drama produced by Tencent Video, starring actors Xiao Zhan and Wang Yibo as Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji respectively—as well as an impressive costume and hair department, and a soundtrack composer who showed up every day and delivered.

The fifty episodes of The Untamed are a (more or less) faithful adaptation of the Mo Dao Zu Shi novel— even though there are some plot points that have been changed and some that have been removed entirely, like all the explicit romantic scenes between the two male leads. And also, the tiny detail of the characters whose physical appearance never changes (even though years have passed).

Look at all that ✨ subtext ✨ (Tencent Video)

There’s also a pretty big difference in how the content is presented in the two media—while Mo Dao Zu Shi has several smaller flashbacks throughout the entire story, The Untamed chose to go for one massive flashback that stretches from Episode 3 to Episode 33, so that you know all you need to know before continuing with the story in the present timeline. And let me warn you, you’ll arrive at the end of that flashback absolutely heartbroken because this story is the textbook definition of “everything has to go horribly wrong before it can go magnificently better.”

So, where should you start?

My suggestion is to start from whatever media you like best—go for Mo Dao Zu Shi if you prefer reading, especially because the English translation has some useful glossary that might help you if you’re not familiar with the genre, and for The Untamed if you immediately need visual support for establishing characters and locations. But then come back to the one you left behind. I personally think The Untamed is the only one you can’t skip.

Other adaptations

If you want more after the book and show, and have not gotten tired of going through the same story over and over (and believe me, you won’t because there’s some extra detail to discover every time), you can also explore the other works derived from the original novel.

Like the audio drama, for starters. It aired on a Chinese audio streaming website, but the fandom is filled with useful guides on how to download it from there, and then listen to it with English transcriptions if you’re not fluent in Chinese. Plus, the voice actor for Wei Wuxian is the same one who dubs him in The Untamed—since it’s a pretty common practice for C-dramas to be dubbed in post-production—which means that you’ll instantly recognize him and be overwhelmed by a sense of familiarity and incredible love for this magnificent dumbass.

(Tencent Video)

The grand collection of Mo Dao Zu Shi adaptations finishes with a donghua and a manhua—while the donghua is already finished and consists of three seasons in total, the manhua is still being released and it’s heading towards the final chapters of the novel. They’re not as easy to get your hands on as the original novel and the drama, though, even though the Twitter side of the fandom always has some useful threads— but hopefully, they’ll also get some official English releases in the future.

Now all that’s left to do is choose your favorite “entry point” into this wonderful world of cultivation sects, wandering spirits, and glorious long hair, and go, carried away by the notes of Wuji—the drama’s main theme, sung by none other than the leads, which still haunts my dreams.

(featured image: Tencent Video)

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Benedetta Geddo
Benedetta (she/her) lives in Italy and has been writing about pop culture and entertainment since 2015. She has considered being in fandom a defining character trait since she was in middle school and wasn't old enough to read the fanfiction she was definitely reading and loves dragons, complex magic systems, unhinged female characters, tragic villains and good queer representation. You’ll find her covering everything genre fiction, especially if it’s fantasy-adjacent and even more especially if it’s about ASOIAF. In this Bangtan Sonyeondan sh*t for life.