Back in Time/Cong Cong Na Nian (First Impression)

Cheers to our youth and its carefree days.


  • Yang Le as Chen Xun
  • He Hong Shan as Fang Hui
  • Bai Jing Ting as Qiao Ran
  • Cai Wen Jing as Lin Jia Mo
  • Du Wei Han as Zhao Ye


  • Chinese
  • 16 episodes (Sohu web drama)
  • Original run: Aug 4 – Sept 29, 2014
  • Also known as: That Year, Time Flew

Quick Rundown:

In 1999, a group of 5 high school friends formed a bond so close that they thought it would last forever. At the center of the group is the couple, Chen Xun and Fang Hui, whose relationship brought everyone together. As they laugh and dream together as carefree teenagers, the reality soon sinks in that these happy days of their youth cannot last forever. With adulthood and the real life outside of high school beckoning, they all must make decisions for their futures that affect the friendship they once believed would stand the test of time. When later looking back at the days of their youth, they all realize that there’s no going back and those days will only exist as a wonderful memory.

Anna’s Take

The very first thing that attracted me to Back in Time was the length of it. With several other Chinese dramas on rotation that have 30+ episodes, a drama with only 16 seemed like an absolute dream come true. I had no doubt that if I ended up liking the first episode, then this drama was going to be a keeper. Lemme tell you, it didn’t even take me the whole 45 minutes to realize that this was drama love at first watch. About 15 minutes into Back in Time, I already knew that I was head over heels in love with it. It was almost like this drama could read my mind (and heart) and checked off all boxes on the “Anna’s Top Drama ❤ ” list. Heartwarming plot, check. Emotional flashbacks & flashforwards, check. Cute cast, check. Lovely musical score, check. Artistic cinematography and directing, check. There’s more, but I’ll stop. Just believe me when I say that I knew it was absolutely and completely drama love for good reason.

You find out right from the start that this story probably isn’t going to have a happy ending. And while I do enjoy swooning over fairytale endings, obviously not every story can have that. Like all other school or youth-themed dramas, there’s a very tangible sense of nostalgia and regret with Back in Time. With the main lead, Chen Xun, questioning in present time if a person can return to the past merely by walking backwards, it’s already blatantly obvious where this story’s headed. Despite the somewhat pessimistic opening, I was only more encouraged to watch this drama because I’m curious to find out what could have possibly happened to have this person constantly looking to the past instead of the future. Let’s just say that I’m already stocking up on the tissues and preparing to cry my eyes out later on.


The cast of actors playing the five friends have been wonderful so far, especially since it appears that most of them are newbie actors and this being their first major production. All of them are older than their 16-year-old characters, but I find them to be quite convincing as teens. Okay, Yang Le as Chen Xun seems a little weird because he looks like he’s in his 20s for sure, but the acting has been so good that I can easily overlook that. He Hong Shan is perhaps the most convincing as the quiet Fang Hui, and her elfish (and very Zhou Xun-like) looks and acting really play up the introvertedness of the character. I’m enjoying this group’s acting and think they’ll do their characters and the story justice.

Something to definitely note about Back in Time is how insanely gorgeous its cinematography is. Absolutely, breathtakingly beautiful. I can clearly see the quality of the 4K resolution that the drama was filmed in because it literally feels like you’re watching something that has an Instagram filter on it. #yesfilter It actually reminds me of the Jay Chou movie, Secret, which was one of the most aesthetically pleasing movies I’ve ever watched. It’s no wonder that the first 2 episodes were released in movie theaters because the gorgeousness needs to be seen on the big screen.

Back in Time has a lot of really great things going for it, and it has all the potential to be a beautifully written, acted, and filmed drama. I know that I was enamored by it right from the get-go, and I hope that my love for it won’t fade as I continue watching. With this being a web drama that was shown exclusively on Sohu’s website and YouTube channel*, I hope that doesn’t prevent more people from watching it. This drama is so well made that it could have easily been a 2-hour movie, but instead we’re lucky enough to be treated to 16 episodes of it. Give Back in Time a watch and maybe you’ll fall in love with it even faster than I did.

*Watch Back in Time here. There aren’t any English subs for it (yet?), but fear not because I’m going to be recapping all 16 episodes! Let’s live vicariously through this group of friends’ youthful days of freedom and simplicity. And for all those ’00s & ’90s references, of course.


This & That:

  • Back in Time is adapted from the novel with the same name, “Cong Cong Na Nian,” (literally translated to “That Year, Time Flew”) by Jiu Ye Hui.
  • The movie adaptation of the novel will be released on Dec 12, 2014, starring Eddie Peng as Chen Xun and Ni Ni as Fang Hui.
  • Yang Le will be in the upcoming c-drama, Cruel Romance, alongside Huang Xiao Ming and Joe Chen.
  • The first two episodes of Back in Time were released in movie theaters, making it the first web drama to be shown there.
  • Back in Time is also the first drama to be filmed in 4K resolution (ultra high definition), which was previously only used for filming movies.

    Etiquette class is in session?

    Etiquette class is in session?


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