A video compilation of Detective Dee movies and television drama produced in China.
Detective Dee is a fictional character based on a real historical figure called Di Ren Jie 狄仁杰. Also known as Duke Wenhui of Liang 梁文惠公, Di was a celebrated statesman of the Tang dynasty (AD600-900) and served as chancellor for Empress Wu Ze Tian 武则天. Of all his achievements, it was his ability as a judge that was widely celebrated.
The earliest fictionalization was in an 1890 novel titled 武则天四大奇案 (Wu Zetian’s Four Great Cases). The novel was translated by Robert van Gulik, a Dutch diplomat, and an Orientalist into English and published in Tokyo in 1949 as Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee (https://amzn.to/47uiNdF). Later, he wrote a series of detective novels with Judge Dee as the main protagonist (https://amzn.to/3s6nxGk).
Van Gulik’s detective novels were only translated into Chinese in the 1980s and introduced Di Ren Jie as a mystery solver rather than a statesman. Frédéric Lenormand published 19 new novels using Judge Dee as detective from 2004 to present collectively known as Les Nouvelles Enquêtes du juge Ti (https://amzn.to/3Yvlurf). Unfortunately, none of them have been translated into English.
There were attempts to adapt Van Gulik’s novels into movies in the West, notably in 1969 and 1974. The 1974 version called Judge Dee and the Monastery Murders is available on Youtube, but the quality is poor.
The Chinese took over from the 1980s. There were television adaptations, blockbuster movies, and low-budget Internet movies. The Chinese media had created a super ancient sleuth to match Sherlock Holmes.
Detective Dee Playlist
1986 The Legend of the Detective Di Renjie TV Series 狄仁杰断案传奇
In 1986, the first Chinese television drama based on Van Gulik’s novels was produced. It was a twenty-five-episode detective drama where each of van Gulik’s stories were adapted into one, two, or three episodes.
The entire playlist is available on Youtube. No English subtitles.
2004 Amazing Detective Di Renjie TV Series 神探狄仁杰
This television series was produced by CCTV-8 and aired in 2004. The Detective Di in this series reminds me most of Sherlock Holmes. Observant, good at deduction, shrewd, and patient. This series contains 3 stories. Each story starts with a seemingly small case that Di gradually investigates to uncover a great sinister plot.
It is quite successful and spawned 3 additional sequels in 2006, 2008 and 2010. But the quality of the sequels deteriorates with each sequel. I guess it is hard to continue to wow the audience.
- The playlist for Amazing Detective Di Renjie Series 1 on Youtube.
- The playlist for Amazing Detective Di Renjie Series 2 on Youtube.
- The playlist for Amazing Detective Di Renjie Series 3 on Youtube.
- The playlist for Amazing Detective Di Renjie Series 4 on Youtube.
No English subtitles.
2009 The Greatness of a Hero TV Series 盛世仁傑
A Hong Kong production starring Kent Cheng as Di Ren Jie. The drama is in Cantonese. The production quality of this drama is not as good as the Chinese ones.
The entire playlist for The Greatness Of A Hero 盛世仁傑 is on Youtube.
2010 Detective Dee The Early Years 神探狄仁杰前传
A 45-episode TV series about Dee as a early career statesman. The series covers 2 decades of events in the life of Detective Dee. Produced by the CCTV in 2010.
It is good storytelling, but it resembles a soap opera than a mystery or crime drama. A tad melodramatic for me.
2014 Young Sherlock TV Series 少年神探狄仁杰
The entire playlist for 少年神探狄仁杰 on YouTube. No English subtitles.
2015 Famous Detective Di Renjie 名侦探狄仁杰
This is a witty series produced by a troupe known as 万万没想到 . They are like the Chinese Full Monty. The series is a spoof of the 2004 Amazing Detective Di Renjie TV Series. I had such fun watching this.
The entire playlist is on Youtube. No English subtitles.
2010 Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame Movie 狄仁傑之通天帝國
Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame is one of the first blockbuster movies made. Directed by the famous Hong Kong director Tsui Hark with Di Renjie played by the equally famous Hong Kong veteran actor Andy Lau. Watch a trailer.
The full-length movie is available at Amazon Prime Video: https://amzn.to/3Nk2gzQ. Regional limitations may apply.
2013 Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon Movie 狄仁傑之神都龍王
Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon is a prequel to Mystery of the Phantom Flame. Directed by Tsui Hark with the younger Di Renjie played by Mark Chao, a Taiwanese actor. The plot is not bad except for the silly sea monster. Watch a trailer.
2018 Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings Movie 狄仁傑之四大天王
Mark Chao reprised his role as Detective Dee in The Four Heavenly Kings. The clip above is the full-length movie. Watch while it lasts. English subtitles available.
The full movie is also available in Amazon Prime Video: https://amzn.to/3YrizQA. Regional limitations may apply.
2018 Detective Dee and the Headless General 狄仁杰之无头神将
Detective Dee (played by 刘屹宸) is asked to investigate the appearance of a headless general and murders of the workers at the construction of the royal tomb. Rumours that this is a sign from heaven against the Emperor Wu Zetian.
This is of course a conspiracy against Emperor Wu. The headless general is actually a piece of clever machinery. Detective Dee identified the perpetrators and save the day.
The movie is watchable but nothing to shout about.
2018 Detective Dee and the Lost Gold 狄仁杰之蚩尤血藤
The movie consists of 3 cases that seem to be related. Detective Dee (portrayed by 杜奕衡) had to unravel one to find the connection to the next.
A fairly low budget Internet movie. The special effects are rough on the edges but that is to be expected.
2020 Detection of Dee Renjie #1 狄仁杰探案之天外飞仙
The story began with several bizarre deaths involving the mural of the Flying Apsaras in the Shrine of Remembrance. Di Renjie (portrayed by 杜奕衡) is appointed to investigate the case together with Commandant Xie Yaohuan of the Imperial Guards. The truth involved a two-decade old family feud.
2020 Detection of Di Ren Jie #2 狄仁杰探案之天煞孤鸾
This can be considered a sequel of the previous one. Also, finally, a story that does not revolve around a conspiracy against Emperor Wu Zetian.
Detective Dee (portrayed by 杜奕衡) investigates a series of mysterious murders where the murderers were known but they are the unlikely perpetrators. He would uncover a decade-old mystery.
The storyline is good and a refreshing departure from the usual set up. The acting could have been better though.
2020 Detective Dee and Flying Demon Head Movie 狄仁杰之飞头罗刹
This movie is directed by Huang He 黄河. Detective Dee is played by 罗立群. It features a flying demon head, a flying dragon, mystic prophecies, and murder. It is a conspiracy against Emperor Wu Zetian again.
I think the storyline is quite good. The twist at the end was well played.
2020 Detective Dee and the Dragon Palace 狄仁杰之深海龙宫
This movie has quite a good storyline. At first, it seems like it is going to be about some fantasy nonsense with a dragon’s pearl and aquamen. As it turns out, the hocus pocus was man-made. The acting can be better, but it is entertaining enough. Chinese subtitles only. Detective Dee (played by 连凯).
2020 Detective Dee and the Blood Ghost Hand 鬼影血手
This could be the worst movie using the famed detective’s name. The premise looks promising. 3 magistrates of the same county were found murdered with their hearts missing. Detective Dee volunteered to find the serial killer.
The script, costumes, characters and plot and ending are unconvincing. The acting is off. I added it here to remind myself not to watch it again.
2021 Detective Dee and the Red Fox 狄仁杰之通天赤狐
Gold meant as soldiers’ pay went missing and the convoy escorting the gold were rumoured to have been murdered by fox spirits. Detective Dee (portrayed by 魏巍) and his companions were attacked on route to investigate. It is clearly a conspiracy hiding behind a fake haunting.
The storyline is fairly standard and predictable: a conspiracy against the Empress Wu disguised as mystical occurrences. Great acting from the main leads though. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Chinese subtitles only.
2022 Detective Dee and the Nine Dragons Coffin 狄仁杰之九龙玄棺
Zombies threatened to overrun the city and only Detective Dee (played by 魏巍) can save the day. The zombies are, no surprise, after Empress Wu.
This is by far the silliest Detective Dee storyline I’ve come across so far. It is clearly inspired by Kingdom: Ashin of the North but such poor writing and execution.
I was looking forward to this because I enjoyed 魏巍 acting in Detective Dee and the Phantom Fox. It was a big letdown.
2021 Detective Dee and The Tong Tian Hierarch 狄仁杰之通天教主
A cult leader threatens the peace of the land. Detective Dee (played by 张佳航) overcame the odds to rescue the Empress and uncover the true identity of the cult leader.
2021 Di Renjie and the Demons 狄仁杰之伏妖篇
Detective Dee (played by 邱雨铄) investigates the deaths of 5 ministers and a spate of demonic attacks. The storyline is average, the acting is below average.
2020 Di Ren Jie & The Rats 狄公灭鼠
A plague caused by rats rages in a city. Detective Dee (played by 陈浩民) races to identify the source of the infection.
2021 Detective Dee and The Plague of Chang An 狄仁杰:长安变
Detective Dee (played by 陈浩民) investigates bizarre murders in the capital of Chang An.
2020 Di Renjie and the Deadly Sandma 狄仁杰之夺魂梦魇
Scarlet messages calling for the deposition of Empress Wu are found at the crime scenes of a series of murders. Di Renjie (played by 贺刚) has 5 days to solve the case.
2020 Di Renjie and Strange Flames 狄仁杰之焚天异火
Di Renjie (played by 贺刚) was appointed to govern a city fraught with plague, barbaric attacks, and internal woes.
2021 Di Renjie and City of Mists 狄仁杰之迷雾神都
A large-scale locust plague ravaged the land. Funds meant for the disaster areas turned into butterflies on route. Di Renjie (played by 贺刚) investigates. Is this an Act of Heaven or man-made?
2018 – Detective Dee: Under the Tower 狄仁杰之夺命天眼
Di Renjie (played by 陈键锋), imprisoned by Empress Wu for objecting to her becoming emperor, was appointed to investigate a series of couple murders without leaving his prison cell.
2020 Di Renjie and the Ghostly Moths 狄仁杰之幻涅魔蛾
Detective Dee (played by 高子沣) investigates a series of incidents involving a ghostly moth.
Detective Dee: Scent of a Killer 狄仁杰之夺命奇香
Detective Dee (played by 杨树林) was attacked on his way back to investigate a series of murders in the capital and lost his memories. The Minister of State mistook another man as Dee and the adventures of the 2 Dees began.
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