Although we have hundreds of mysteries under our belt, ‘The Grave Robber Chronicles’ universe has been a particular favorite since its first adaptation ‘The Lost Tomb’. One of the reasons we love the show is that it truly is a great watch for any taste. A great balance of enough romance (but not overly-much) versus action and adventure (tons). It’s filled with mystery, fantasy, the supernatural, fighting, history – think Indiana Jones with less Romance and more Mystery and Intrigue.
The original novels formed a series known in Chinese as 盗墓笔记 (Daomu Biji) or by its English title ‘The Grave Robber Chronicles.’ They were written by popular Chinese novelist 徐磊 (Xu Lei – Kenny) who writes under the pseudonym ‘Nan Pai San Shu’.
The novels follow the adventures of the Old Nine Gates – nine ancient families who have controlled most of the tomb-raiding mission in China since before WWII. Originally protecting the famous city of Changsha, the families have slowly branched out and relocated since the war — each specializing in their own methods and techniques for evading the deadly traps and tricks that lay waiting underground. Some are in it for the money . . . others are in it to preserve the precious artifacts before they are looted and sold on the black markets. None are safe against the guards set by the ancestors to ward off intruders.
The Grave Robber Chronicles can more or less be divided into three eras chronologically within the universe:
Prequels ➔ The prequels focus on the rise of the Nine families immediately before and during WWII. They serve both as a historical approach to the tomb-raiding concept and as a tool for understanding the novels’ world and its characters. The main series in this era is The Mystic Nine collection focusing on Zhang Qi Shan – head of the most mysterious of the nine families. Clan Zhang was once the most powerful, but weakened in the 1800s. Zhang Qi Shan and his cousin Zhang Ri Shan are all that remain and seek to recover the name and reputation of their family. They have recently entered Changsha as officers in the military. There, they must learn to navigate not only the threatening Japanese forces but the other eight families who are not always as friendly as they appear.
The Lost Tomb ➔ We move away from the historical period and step into the modern times as we shift our focus to Wu Xie from another family – Clan Wu. The Lost Tomb (I, II, III) / Ultimate Note tells of the adventures of a young Wu Xie as he searches for his Third Uncle who mysteriously disappeared on a mission. Joining him are Zhang Qiling and Wang Pangzi – the Iron Triangle. They would form a friendship stronger than brotherhood. Eventually Zhang Qiling leaves on a ten year mission of his own, and Wu Xie is forced to hold down the fort alone in his absence. As he waits for Zhang Qiling, a now older Wu Xie adopts a young apprentice, Li Cu, in the Tomb of the Sea. Reunited with allies from the other eight families, they take on the evil Clan Wang who seeks to end the nine families and the world with them if possible.
Sequels ➔ Zhang Qiling finally returns and the Iron Triangle (Wu Xie, Qiling, and Pangzi) are reunited once again in a serious of new adventures. Although related, these films (Reunion) focus once more on Wu Xie and his friends once again rather than Li Cu and the families in general.
The nine families are generally sorted into three ‘tiers’ or ‘gates’ based on their power and influence within the community.
Upper Gates ➔ Tend to be larger, wealthier, more powerful families. Not necessarily large in the immediate family, but extensive in terms of their extended family, apprentices, connections, etc. Undertake large operations involving more manpower.
- Zhang (张) ➔(the first and one of the most powerful – they are generally on the good side and keep the other families in check) – Initially led by Zhang Qishan (aka Fo Ye) aided by his cousin and assistant Lieutenant Zhang Rishan who takes over eventually. They are often associated with the military. #ZhangRiShanFans❤. Zhang Qiling is one of the stars in The Lost Tomb and is related to this family somehow (cousin? We prefer to imagine him as the adored child of Zhang Qishan and his wife Xin Yue, but it’s unlikely. Dunno 🤷♀️ His power lies in his mystery).
- Er (二) ➔ (the Chinese term for two – ‘èr’– also usually on the good side and relatively powerful; they show up to support the Zhang family) – Initially led by Er Yuehong (aka Er Ye). They are often associated with the Chinese opera.
- Ban (半) ➔ (not particularly memorable, but we might have just forgotten them 😂 ) – Initially led by Ban Jie Li, but latter descendants in the series go by ‘Li’ instead of Ban . . . . unless somehow ‘Li Cu’ from Tomb of the Sea is related to them? Seemingly not, but it would mean a revival of the family given that all the others have a strong role. . .
Middle Gates ➔ Tend be to smaller families who operate alone or in isolated groups. Not as large or generally as political, but not necessarily less influential in their own fields. Less likely to appear with an entire force of bodyguards 🤷♀️
- Chen (陈) ➔ (not always on the good side but seems to improve later). Initially led by Chen Pi A Si (Si for the Chinese character 4 ‘sì‘), an apprentice to Er Yue Hong but separated to become an independent family.
- Wu (吴) ➔ (sound is similar to Chinese 5 ‘wǔ‘ – they are often influential and highly respected by the other families. Most of the novels and films center on the Wu family, particularly Wu Xie a modern descendent). Initially led by Wu Lao Gou (the one with the puppy 😊🐶). They are often the people actually doing the tomb raiding as opposed to the Upper Gates in modern times (they are on the ground in operations).
- Hei (黑) ➔ (The name represents the color ‘black’). Initially led by Hei Bei Lao Liu (Liu referring to the number 6 ‘liù‘).
Lower Gates ➔ These families often appear assisting the others and generally deal with the trade of antiquities rather than actually finding the artifacts. Not always allies but generally so.
- Huo (霍) ➔ (Significant family in the series – there’s a lot of them. Generally led by women, they are sometimes helpful and sometimes an enemy – they must be watched carefully). Initially led by Huo Jin Xi or Qi Guniang (representing the Chinese number 7 ‘qī‘) but has several important descendants including Huo Xiu Xiu, an ally in The Lost Tomb.
- Qi (齐) ➔ (Heavily involved in fortune-telling and familiar with the ancient Feng Shui practices). Initially led by Qi Tiezui, better known as Ba Ye (representing the Chinese number 8 ‘bā‘). Ba Ye was a close friend of the Zhang and Er families in Mystic Nine. The family does not seem to appear in later series. #WeLoveBaYe❤
- Xie (解) ➔ (Significant business family who often provides financial backing or resources to the other families in need). Initially led by Xie Jiu (representing the Chinese number 9 ‘jiǔ‘), but later led by Xie Yu Chen, a friend and ally of Wu Xie.
The Tenth Clan ➔ This clan is generally unknown until Tomb of the Sea where a tenth, evil clan appears. Represented by the ‘Phoenix’ tattoos, their goal is both to destroy the nine families and find the secret to immortality. They believe the Zhang family has the clue given how long Zhang Ren Shan and Zhang Qiling both live and are often at war with them. This clan includes both outsiders and members of the nine families who have gone off on their own. Known as the ‘Wang Clan‘, they should not be confused with several characters named Wang who are unrelated. For example, both Wang Pan Zi and Wang Meng are close friends to Wu Xie.
*As a hidden Easter egg, you might remember that the persons who went to the Underwater tomb with Wu Xie’s uncle in The Lost Tomb 2 included Zhang, Li (likely from the Ban family), Chen, Wu, Huo, Qi, Xie – only the Hei and Er families failed to participate.
If you would prefer to read the novels before or after watching the shows, there are English Translations for each of the novels out there. The first six were published directly by Xu Lei and are available on Amazon in Print and for Kindle.
You can find pretty nice translations of the remaining work and all of the sequels, prequels, side stories on MearBear’s Translation site (Link) ❤ .
If you’re interested, there is also a manga / graphic novel available by the same author and in the same genre. It’s called Daomu Biji and is available on Amazon (Print & Kindle)! The graphics are excellent – we read it through in one go!
We seriously recommend watching the series for yourself and hope you will love it as much as we have! So without further ado, here is a list of the Chronological order for watching The Grave Robber Chronicle series, links to English translations of the shows, and their relationship to the novels themselves! We hope this helps you to understand the order and minimize the confusion.
Let us know how you like the show in the comments below!
*If viewing on your mobile device or tablet, click the “+” symbol on the left to see more details. I am always working to find ways to maintain the translatability while also having it be responsive to mobile sized screens. If you have suggestions, let me know!
Grave Robber Chronicles
|wdt_ID||Order||Movie Poster||Notes||Novel||Story||Year Aired|
Title: The Mystic Nine: Qing Shan Hai Tang
|Prequel, Side Story||2022|
Title: The Mystic Nine
Title: The Mystic Nine: Season 2
Title: The Mystic Nine Side Story: Four Belongs to Abelmoschus
|Side Story, Prequel||2016|
Title: The Mystic Nine Side Story: Tiger Bones Plum Blossom
|Side Story, Prequel||2016|
Title: The Mystic Tomb: Ganges in the Trees
|Side Story, Prequel||2016|
Title: The Mystic Nine Side Story: Flowers Bloom in February
|Side Story, Prequel||2016|
Title: The Lost Tomb (Daomu Biji)
Title: The Lost Tomb Season 2
Title: The Lost Tomb Season 2: Explore the Note / Heavenly Palace of Clouds (Daomu Biji Season 3)
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