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China’s Top TV Dramas to Watch This Winter 2017/2018

China’s top television dramas to binge on this winter – by What’s on Weibo.

Manya Koetse

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From historical dramas to military series – a list of the latest, most-watched television dramas in China shows that Chinese television dramas are not just hot & happening – they are also diverse when it comes to themes and genres.

It has been over 27 years since China’s first television drama aired and caused a national craze. Although China’s media industry has greatly changed through the times, one thing has remained the same: Chinese TV viewers still love watching television dramas – a dominant form of media entertainment. In fact, the Chinese TV drama industry is booming and among the most vibrant in the world, with no signs of slowing down.

As the days are getting colder and darker, it is time to curl up on the couch to do some tv drama (binge) watching. China has seen a myriad of new television dramas this year, with some of the more popular ones airing this winter.

This is a top 10 of most popular new dramas according to Weibo’s charts and the Sohu hot charts at the time of writing. We have added various links on where to watch these series, but they might change overtime – please post relevant links in the comment section below.

Some dramas are only licensed for certain regions. For those who wish to switch between regions on their desktop or mobile, you can use a VPN. Our friends at NordVPN offer excellent services (check out here).

From the Game of Hunting (l) and The Legendary Tycoon.

For weekly updates on the top online ratings of Chinese television series, check out Cdramabase.com, an excellent website run by Alice Craciun providing insights into the world of Chinese drama.

#10. Peacekeeping Infantry Battalion #维和步兵营#

Genre: Military drama
Release date: October 10, 2017 (35 episodes)
Network: Jiangsu TV
Directed by: Ning Haiqiang (宁海强), Yi Xiang (翌翔)

‘Peacekeeping Infantry Battalion’ is a different military drama than the mainstream series within this genre; it is not focused on Sino-Japanese War, but on modern-day conflicts. This drama has received much praise from Chinese experts.

Its airing comes at a time when China’s role in UN peacekeeping is becoming increasingly crucial, not just as a contributor of troops, but also as a financial provider. The drama, attracting large audiences across China, plays an important role in the current shaping of the image of China’s peacekeeping troops.

The drama was co-directed by director Ning Haiqiang, who is also known for multiple military productions such as The Hundred Regiments Offensive (百团大战), and aims to show how Chinese peacekeeping forces are selected, trained, and go abroad. The drama mainly focuses on the tumultuous story of people in the Peacekeeping Infantry Battalion, who are risking their own lives to evacuate citizens from Libya during a dangerous mission. And, of course, it would not be a proper Chinese drama without some romance amidst all the military developments.

To check out the drama (in Chinese) see this YouTube channel.

Starring: Du Chen (杜淳), Jia Qing (贾青), Xu Honghao (徐洪浩), He Da (何达), Liu Runnan (刘润南), Shen Hao (沈浩).

#9. Detective Dee #通天狄仁杰#

Genre: Costume drama, detective
Release date: August 21 2017 (46 episodes)
Network: Beijing TV, Anhui TV
Directed by: Xie Zhaoyi (叶昭仪)

This is a large-scale costume drama that was already produced back in 2014. It focuses on the main character Di Renjie, which is played by actor Ren Jialun, who also starred in the drama Noble Aspirations (青云志).

Drama blog DramaPanda describes Detective Dee as a “Chinese equivalent to Sherlock Holmes” who actually lived during the reign of Empress Wu Zetian (624-705). He’s become a widely fictionalized character.

The drama shows the trials and tribulations of Di Renjie, as he is falsely accused of a crime he did not commit and then discovers he has special talents for solving cases.

Watch it on CCAsian here.

Starring: Ren Jialun (任嘉伦, also known as Allen Ren), Kan Qingzi (阚清子), Jiao Junyan (焦俊艳), Chen Yi (陈奕), Miao Junjie (缪俊杰).

#8. Green Love 青恋

Genre: Romance, family, rural
Release date: October 18, 2017 (26 episodes)
Network: CCTV-1, Zhejiang TV (where it started airing October 31st)
Directed by: Ma Jin (马进)

‘Green Love’ (Qinglian) is the only tv drama in this list that is themed around rural life in China – although it is about urban youth at the same time. It tells the story of the 28-year-old man Lin Shen (starring Guo Jingfei) who returns to his hometown of Yunshe village after establishing his own company in Shanghai.

As described by Cdramabase, he is not the only one turning to this village after building on a career in the big city. Investor Chen Ling (by Che Xiao) wants to escape the busy city and visits Lin Shen’s village, where she learns to appreciate Chinese village life.

Starring: Guo Jingfei (郭京飞), Che Xiao (车晓), Una You (尤靖茹).

#7. The Legendary Tycoon #传奇大亨#

Genre: Period drama
Release date: October 9, 2017
Network: Zhejiang TV, Tencent, iQiYi, Youku
Directed by: Zhuang Xunxin (庄训鑫)

With 110 million views on Weibo #传奇大亨#, this is a popular Chinese drama and a quite original one because it is based on a real-life story.

This drama takes place in Shanghai during the 1930s, when the brothers of the ‘Gu family’ join the movie industry. Gu Yanmei, played by actor Zhang Han, is the youngest brother, who follows his older brother Gu Ruoxia to Singapore to start their own film business there. When war breaks out, the brothers decide to move their film production base to Hong Kong – the start of a tumultuous and flourishing career.

The Legendary Tycoon is based on the story of the Shaw Brothers, of whom the youngest, Run Shaw, passed away in 2014, at the age of 107 (Find a short history of the Shaw Brothers & Chinese cinema here).

See the first episode of this drama here (in Chinese), or through Viki with English subtitles here.

Starring: Zhang Han (张翰), Jia Qing (贾青), Chen Qiao’en (陈乔恩), Song Yi (宋轶) Tan Kai (谭凯), Liu Changde (刘长德) Guo Ziqian (郭子千) Yao Zhuojun (姚卓君) Sun Wei (孙玮).

#6. Xuan Yuan Sword: Legend of the Han Clouds #轩辕剑之汉之云#

Genre: Fantasy, sci-fi, costume
Release date: August 8 2017 (58 episodes)
Network: Dragon TV
Directed by: Pan Wenjie (潘文杰), Jin Sha (金沙)

‘Xuan Yuan Sword: Legend of the Han Clouds’ is set during a fantasy era and revolves around three opposing kingdoms and the heroic accomplishments of the young protagonists. That these kinds of fantasy spectacles are still very popular amongst netizens can be viewed on this drama’s Weibo hashtag page, which had received 2,2 billion views by the time of writing.

The show can be viewed with English subs on Youtube here or through Viki.

Starring: Zhang Yunlong (张云龙), Yu Menglong (于朦胧), Guan Xiaotong (关晓彤), Zhang Jiazhu (张佳宁).

#5. My! Physical Education Teacher #我的!体育老师#

Genre: Romance, comedy
Release date: 11 November 2017 (38 episodes)
Network: Hunan TV
Directed by: Lin Yan (林妍)

The pretty Wang Xiaomi had always dreamed of being treated like a princess by her future husband. The much older Mark (Zhang Jiayi), who is facing a mid-life crisis, is her ideal candidate. But dealing with her new stepdaughter and restless husband is not the pampered life Wang had hoped for.

The drama comically features the generational differences between those born in the post-70s, post-80s, post-90s, and those born after 2000.

The drama can be watched online through CCAsian here.

Starring: Zhang Jiayi (张嘉译), Wang Xiaochen (王晓晨), Wang Weiwei (王维维), Zhang Zijian (张子健), Zhao Jinmai (赵今麦)

#4. Ordinary Person #凡人的品格#

Genre: Urban drama, workplace
Release date: October 28, (45 episodes)
Alternative title: Ordinary Person Character
Network: Jiangsu TV, Zhejiang TV
Directed by: Xu Zongzheng (徐宗政)

This drama’s narrative follows the story of several people who work together at a media company. While war reporter-turned-producer Zhan Dapeng (played by Lin Yongjian) is facing a crisis both in his working and personal life, the pretty industry newbie Chang Ge (Jiang Xin) is an admirer of Zhan. The two encounter many challenges while working on a new program together – they’re both partners and enemies at the same time.

Check it out (in Chinese) on Youtube here.

Starring: Lin Yongjian (林永健), Jiang Xin (蒋欣), Tong Lei (童蕾), Liang Zhenlun (梁振伦), Bai Zhidi (白志迪).

#3. The Endless Love #路从今夜白#

Genre: Romance
Release date: 11 November 2017 (32 episodes)
Alternative title: The Journey from Tonight is White
Network: Hunan TV, Mango TV
Directed by: Gu Yunyun (顾贇贇)

This drama, that is based on a novel by Mo Wu Bi Ge, revolves around the love story of the talented painter Gu Yebai (played by Chen Ruoxuan) and the amiable Lu Youyan (An Yuexi). When Gu is getting ready to prepare for a major art competition, psychological problems are challenging his journey. A new love blossoms when Lu Youyan helps him overcome his problems, but their relationship faces more obstacles as the drama unfolds.

This drama can be watched through Viki.com with subtitles (if it is licensed for your region).

Starring: Chen Ruoxuan (陈若轩), An Yuexi (安悦溪), Wei Miles (魏哲鸣), Luo Yutong (罗玉通), Clinton Kuang (匡牧野).

#2. ER Doctors ##急诊科医生##

Genre: Hospital drama
Release date: October 30, 2017 (43 episodes)
Network: Dragon TV, Beijing TV
Directed by: Zheng Xiaolong (郑晓龙), Liu Xuesong (刘雪松)

The television drama ‘ER Doctors’ (#急诊科医生#) is not just one of the highest-ranking tv dramas this winter, but also one of the most viewed and discussed topics on Weibo.

ER Doctors is a realistic drama that centers around a group of doctors at a hospital’s emergency department.

It tells the story of the ER room head doctor of the emergency department He Jian Yi (Zhang Jiayi) and the new Ph.D. advisor, who just returned from America, Jiang Xiaoqi (by Wang Luodan). At first, these two are wary of each other, but they come to understand each other and rescue not only patients side by side but also themselves in the end (Cdramabase).

According to Shanghai Daily, director Zheng attached great importance to the details in every scene, which is why he visited a Shanghai hospital with the drama’s cast to learn basic ER training.

Starring: Zhang Jiayi (张嘉译), Wang Luodan (王珞丹), Jiang Shan (江珊)

#1. Game of Hunting #猎场#

Genre: Romance, workplace
Release date: November 6, 2017 (52 episodes)
Alternative title: Hunting Ground
Network: Hunan TV, Youku, LeTv and more.
Directed by: Jiang Wei (姜伟) (also screenplay)

The Game of Hunting is the absolute number 1 of this list, currently topping the top lists of most popular dramas on Weibo and Sogu, and receiving a 9.0 rating from viewers.

The drama’s narrative revolves around headhunter Zheng Qiudong (played by Hu Ge) as he struggles to climb up in the financial world – a “hunting ground” full of enemies and immoral characters. When his business falls apart, he has to start anew with the help of this new alliances.

The show is heavily sponsored by One Plus (一加手机), one of China’s most popular domestic smartphone brands.

Game of Hunting can be watched online through multiple channels, including YouTube.

Starring: Hu Ge 胡歌, Chen Long 陈龙, Sun Honglei 孙红雷, Zhang Jiayi 张嘉译, Zu Feng 祖峰.

Want to know more? Also see
Top 5 Chinese TV Dramas of Summer 2017
Top 10 Chinese Television Dramas Early 2017
Top 10 TV dramas in China 2016

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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    Linda Carr

    May 24, 2018 at 6:03 pm

    The Endless love is just a lovely series that I love to watch. In the beginning, I was just thinking that Chinese just rely on K-dramas and their shows are not as good as Koreans but now, I can understand they have a good drama industry. I am also watching some Chinese dramas here ( http://drama3sonline.com/ ).

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China Arts & Entertainment

Two Hour Time Limit for KTV: China’s Latest Covid-19 Measures Draw Online Criticism

China’s latest COVID-19 infection prevention and control measures are drawing criticism from social media users.

Manya Koetse

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No more never-ending nights filled with singing and drinking at the karaoke bar for now, as new pandemic containment measures put a time limit as to how long people can stay inside entertainment locations and wangba (internet cafes).

On June 22nd, China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism (文旅部) issued an adjusted version to earlier published guidelines on Covid-19-related prevention and control measures for theaters, internet cafes, and other indoor entertainment venues.

Some of the added regulations have become big news on Chinese social media today.

According to the latest guidelines, it will not be allowed for Chinese consumers to stay at various entertainment locations and wangba for more than two hours.

Singing and dancing entertainment venues, such as KTV bars, can only operate at no greater than 50% maximum occupancy. This also means that private karaoke rooms will be much emptier, as they will also only be able to operate at 50% capacity.

On Weibo, the news drew wide attention today, with the hashtag “KTV, Internet Cafe Time Limit of Two Hours” (#KTV网吧消费时间不得超2小时#) receiving over 220 million views at the time of writing. One news post reporting on the latest measures published on the People’s Daily Weibo account received over 7000 comments and 108,000 likes.

One popular comment, receiving over 9000 likes, criticized the current anti-coronavirus measures for entertainment locations, suggesting that dining venues – that have reopened across the country – actually pose a much greater risk than karaoke rooms due to the groups of people gathering in one space without a mask and the “saliva [drops] flying around.”

The comment, that was posted by popular comic blogger Xuexi, further argues that cinemas – that have suffered greatly from nationwide closures – are much safer, as people could wear masks inside and the maximum amount of seats could be minimized by 50%. Karaoke rooms are even safer, Xuexi writes, as the private rooms are only shared by friends or colleagues – people who don’t wear face masks around each other anyway.

Many people agree with the criticism, arguing that the latest guidelines do not make sense at all and that two hours is not nearly enough for singing songs at the karaoke bar or for playing online games at the internet cafe. Some wonder why (regular) bars are not closed instead, or why there is no two-hour time limit for their work at the office.

Most comments are about China’s cinemas, with Weibo users wondering why a karaoke bar, where people open their mouths to sing and talk, would be allowed to open, while the cinemas, where people sit quietly and watch the screen, remain closed.

Others also suggest that a two-hour limit would actually increase the number of individuals visiting one place in one night, saying that this would only increase the risks of spreading the virus.

“Where’s the scientific evidence?”, some wonder: “What’s the difference between staying there for two hours or one day?”

“As a wangba owner, this really fills me with sorrow,” one commenter writes: “Nobody cares about the financial losses we suffered over the past six months. Our landlord can’t reduce our rent. During the epidemic we fully conformed to the disease prevention measures, we haven’t opened our doors at all, and now there’s this policy. We don’t know what to do anymore.”

Among the more serious worries and fears, there are also some who are concerned about more trivial things: “There’s just no way we can eat all our food at the KTV place within a two-hour time frame!”

By Manya Koetse

*” 餐饮其实才更严重,一群人聚在一起,而且不戴口罩,唾沫横飞的。开了空调一样也是密闭空间。电影院完全可以要求必须戴口罩,而且座位可以只出售一半。KTV其实更安全,都是同事朋友的,本身在一起都不戴口罩了,在包间也无所谓。最危险的餐饮反而都不在意了”

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China Arts & Entertainment

Chinese Idol Survival Shows – The Start of a New ‘Idol Era’

Idol reality survival shows are riding a new wave of popularity in China.

Yin Lin Tan

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China has a vibrant online popular culture media environment, where new trends and genres come and go every single day. Chinese idol survival shows, however, have seen continued success and now seem to go through another major peak in popularity. What’s on Weibo’s Yin Lin explains.

On May 30, the finale of Chinese online video platform iQIYI’s Youth With You 2 (青春有你2) broke the Internet. Official videos on iQIYI’s Youtube channel garnered over 300 million views. At the time of writing, the hashtag “Youth With You 2 Finale” (#青春有你2总决赛#) has 3.15 billion views; the hashtag “Youth With You 2” (#青春有你2#) has 14.5 billion views. 

In recent years, China has produced a slew of so-called ‘idol survival shows.’ They have enjoyed much popularity among local audiences, as well as overseas—more than 393 hashtags related to Youth With You 2 trended in Asia, Europe, South America, and North America. In this overview, we explore the background, status quo, and future of China’s idol survival shows.

 

The Start of The ‘Idol Wave’ in China 

 

In China’s idol survival reality shows, so-called ‘trainees’, or aspiring idols, participate in a series of different challenges to compete for a chance to debut.

The ‘idol culture’ (偶像文化) has been dominating popular culture in Japan and South Korea for many years. An idol is, in short, a heavily commercialized multi-talented entertainer that is marketed – sometimes as a product – for image, attractiveness, and personality, either alone or with a group.

Especially K-pop and the Korean entertainment industry have since long been extremely popular among Chinese youth, heavily influencing pop culture in China today (more about Korean and Japanese idols here and here, and also read our article “Why Korean Idol Groups Got So Big in China and are Conquering the World“).

These kinds of shows are ubiquitous in South Korea’s popular culture, with Produce 101 (2016) becoming one of the most popular and successful South Korean reality series ever. 

The concept is simple. Every week, viewers vote for their favorite contestant. Trainees with insufficient votes during elimination rounds are eliminated from the competition. 

Nine Percent, the group formed from Idol Producer (Source).

The group formed from the final trainees then goes on to ‘promote’ for a period of time, usually one to two years.

This method of creating an idol group, in which the members are basically selected by their own fans, is a major way to bridge existing distances between fans and their idols. Fan participation is a key factor in the success of idol reality shows.

While China has had several idol survival shows, iQIYI’s Idol Producer (青春有你, 2018) was the first to reach levels of popularity similar to that of South Korea’s Produce 101

Idol Producer premiered in January 2018 with Zhang Yixing as the host and Li Ronghao, MC Jin, Cheng Xiao, Zhou Jieqiong, and Jackson Wang serving as mentors.

This first season of Idol Producer brought together a total of hundred trainees. Though most trainees were from China, there were a few from overseas, such as You Zhangjing from Malaysia and Huang Shuhao from Thailand. The younger brother of Chinese actress Fan Bingbing, Fan Chengcheng, also participated in the show.

The first episode of Idol Producer attracted more than 100 million views within the first hour of broadcasting. In the final episode, more than 180 million votes were cast, with first-place winner Cai Xukun raking in more than 47 million votes.  

Trainees performing on Produce 101 China (Source).

Two months after Idol Producer, Tencent launched Produce 101 China (创造101) in March 2018. Both shows marked the start of the ‘idol wave’ in China. 

In the next two years, more idol survival shows would dominate the Chinese entertainment scene. iQIYI released Youth With You 1 (青春有你) and Youth With You 2 (青春有你2) in 2019 and 2020 respectively. Tencent, too, released Produce Camp 2019 (创造营2019) and Produce Camp 2020 (创造营2020), the latter of which is currently airing. 

 

China’s New Idol Survival Show Era 

 

In 2018, both Produce 101 China and Idol Producer enjoyed overwhelming popularity, accumulating more than 4.73 billion views and 3 billion views respectively. Their sequels, however, have failed to achieve the same level of success.

At the time of writing, 150,000 viewers have completed Youth With You 1 on Chinese community site Douban, versus 470,000 viewers for its predecessor, Idol Producer. Additionally, the number of votes cast for the first episode of Youth With You 1 was much lower compared to its Idol Producer equivalent. 

The number of votes for the top 19 trainees on Idol Producer (left) versus Youth With You 1 (right) in the first episode (Source).

As for Produce 101 China, 510,000 viewers have completed the show on Douban, but only 340,000 viewers have finished watching its sequel. 

Groups formed from these shows have met with varying amounts of success and have run into problems regarding scheduling conflicts. 

Nine Percent, the boy group formed from Idol Producer in 2018, was known as a group that rarely met. Their second album was a compilation of tracks from solo members. Members had existing contracts with their own companies while simultaneously promoting with Nine Percent; hence, due to scheduling conflicts, members would often forgo Nine Percent activities for those of their own company. 

Rocket Girls from Produce 101 China. (Source)

Rocket Girls, formed from Produce 101 China, also faced problems after debuting. Due to conflicts between Tencent and their management company, Yuehua Entertainment, Meng Meiqi and Wu Xuanyi, who placed first and second respectively, left the group two months after debut.

Despite the problems faced by groups formed from such shows, some idols were able to ride on the momentum they gained from participating.

For instance, Cai Xukun, first-place winner of Idol Producer, swiftly rose to become one of the most popular trainees on the show, consistently ranking first place in every round of elimination. He was also the host of the recently concluded Youth With You 2.

Liu Yuxin obtained first place in the last episode of Youth With You 2. (Source)

Other trainees have also seen individual success. Liu Yuxin, the first-place winner of Youth With You 2, gained attention for her androgynous look: short hair, a cool personality, and wearing shorts instead of a skirt. Her hashtag “Liu Yuxin” (#刘雨昕#) has been viewed more than 550 million times on Weibo. In the final episode, she received more than 17 million votes.

Despite the lowering audience ratings for other recent idol shows, the success of Youth With You 2 might mark the start of a new ‘idol era’. Even Chinese netizens wondered why the show is so popular compared to Youth With You 1.

Just one day after the finale premiered, the hashtag “Youth With You 2 Finale” had already been viewed more than 2.2 billion times on Weibo. On Douban, 580,000 viewers have finished the show—more than any of the previous idol survival shows by iQIYI and Tencent.

 

The Future of Idol Survival Shows 

 

Chinese idol survival shows were received with much fanfare when they first entered mainstream popular culture in 2018. But the ensuing conflicts that the resulting groups ran into resulted in netizens doubting the success and effectiveness of these shows. 

Trainees from Produce Camp 2020 practicing for the theme song. Source

This year, however, the popularity of both Youth With You 2 and Produce Camp 2020 might signal a comeback for the idol era in China.

And this time around, Chinese idol survival shows are also gaining more traction outside of the PRC, becoming more and more popular among global audiences. Both Youth With You 2 and Produce Camp 2020 have been well-received by viewers from many different countries.

On social media, online commenters praise the two shows – and Chinese idol survival shows in general – for having a more “laid-back atmosphere” between the trainees and mentors. Web users also comment that they enjoy how the shows highlight the friendship between the trainees, rather than the feuds.

It seems that what sets Chinese idol survival shows apart from the South Korean ones is precisely why some viewers prefer them. The longer running times, for example, makes it possible to give more screen time to the different trainees and to give a deeper understanding of the relations between them.

Youtube comment on Episode 1 of Produce Camp 2020. Source

Youtube comment on Episode 1 of Produce Camp 2020. Source

Reddit comment on Episode 9 of Idol Producer. Source

With the popularity of idols like Liu Yuxin and Wang Ju who challenge conventional beauty standards, shows can also look into moving away from the cookie-cutter aesthetic that idols usually adhere to. 

Furthermore, management companies and broadcasting companies have to come to an agreement regarding what scheduling arrangement would benefit all parties and be conducive towards the idols’ physical and mental health. 

Selected trainees from Produce Camp 2020 took part in a photoshoot with Elle. Source

It remains to be seen whether THE9, the newly formed group from Youth With You 2, will be able to flourish in the time to come and avoid the troubles that other groups ran into. 

As for Produce Camp 2020, it seems set to enjoy just as much success as Youth With You 2 did – if not more. Only five episodes have been released, but the show’s hashtag already has 16.1 billion views.

A reviewer on Douban writes: “The trainees are all confident, taking opportunities to express themselves and actively showcase their talents. So much youthful and positive energy!” 

The latest newcomers to the idol reality show genre further consolidate the success of the format. Recently, Mango TV released Sisters Who Make Waves (乘风波浪的姐姐们, 2020), where female celebrities above 30 years old compete to make it into the final five-member girl group. The first episode was viewed more than 370 million times within the first three days of release and immediately became top trending on Weibo.

The number of survival shows in China right now and their growing popularity shows that audiences seemingly can’t get enough of the genre. It is an indication that, despite setbacks in the past, China’s idol survival reality show genre is still going strong and might be here to stay.

You can watch the currently airing Produce Camp 2020 and Sisters Who Make Waves here and here.

By Yin Lin Tan

 Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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