The June issue of China’s Elle Magazine, appearing on the fifth of May 2013, will be released with four different covers: all of them featuring China’s famous singer Li Yuchun, also known as Chris Lee. Li Yuchun had her major breakthrough in the 2005 version of ‘Supergirl’, a talent show similar to American Idol. Li, who currently has 2.621.730 followers on Weibo, has continued to be a hot topic on China’s (social) media. Part of her success is her boyish appearance – she is also referred to as ‘Brother Chun’ and is generally called ‘handsome’ instead of ‘pretty’. Li Yuchun has become more than the winner of a talent show; she has become a cultural phenomenon.
Since winning the nationwide talent show ‘Supergirl’ (Chaoji Nüsheng) and appearing on the cover of Time Magazine Asia in 2005, Li Yuchun has become a household name in China. Not only was she named one of ‘Asia’s Heroes’ by Time, she allegedly was also mentioned as one of China’s 50 most influential people by London think-tank Royal Institute of International Affairs along with Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao (Ling 2009, 527; Pi 2010, 356). As one of the biggest names in China’s music industry, Li is a national idol, pioneer and cultural phenomenon in multiple ways.
As the winner of the 2005 season of ‘Supergirl’, one of China’s all-time most popular shows, Li Yucheng has become one of the most-discussed Chinese female artists on the Internet. By 2011, over 361 million netizens had visited the webforum dedicated to discussing Li at Baidu Post Bar- over 56 million posts were left in 2.8 million threads (Leibold 2011, 1027). Li’s role in ‘Supergirl’ was an “unprecedented hit in the television history of China” (Duong 2009). Another unique characteristic of Li Yuchun as a cultural phenomenon is how she became famous- it was not the traditional music industry, but her own group of fans that turned her into a superstar by actively participating in promoting her (Li won the 2008 MTV Asia Awards with an astonishing 97 per cent of the votes!). Scholar Ling Yang writes about Li’s fans as “prosumers” since they have contributed to the production, promotion and consumption of Li Yuchun as an economic success in China’s music industry. Li holds one of the “most high-profile fan groups in contemporary mainland China” (Ling 2009)- attributing to her unparalleled success. Lastly, Li’s tomboy style has turned her into one of China’s most unique pop stars of all times. Pi Jun (2010) states: “(..) I am sure she is the most masculine female artist in China” (356). Li has been vilified and applauded for her boyish looks. As Pi writes, “most men in China are disgusted with masculine women” (356). It is perhaps not surprising that Li’s core fan group consists of mainly female fans. Her looks are contradictory to China’s traditional aesthetics, and it could be said that she has helped construct a new form of sexuality that goes against mainstream constructions of gender identities. Duong (2009) says: “Li Yuchun (..) was totally the opposite of what almost all female Chinese pop singers were like. She was 1.74 meters tall; kept short hair; wore pants and T-shirts, and no makeup; sang songs written for male singers such as “In my heart there’s only you, never her” and sang in a bass voice, danced in a Ricky Martin style (…). Li Yuchun’s stardom led to a huge dispute on the tomboy trend and sexuality, because it challenged the conventional Chinese criteria for feminine aesthetics and traditional gender norms among Chinese youths” (33).
The June issue of China’s Elle Magazine is already a best-seller before its official launch. In the upcoming issue ‘Brother Chun’ shines with rebellious and sexy androgyny. One thing is for sure- Li Yuchun ain’t no ‘green tea bitch’.
– by Manya Koetse, 2013
Duong, Thanh Nga. 2009. China’s Super Girl Show: Democracy and Female Empowerment Among Chinese Youth. Thesis at Centre for East & South East Asian Studies: Lund University.
Leibold, James. 2011. “Blogging Alone: China, the Internet, and the Democratic Illusion?” The Journal of Asian Studies 70(4): 1023-1041.
Ling Yang. 2009. “All for Love: the Corn Fandom, Prosumers, and the Chinese Way of Creating a Superstar.” International Journal of Cultural Studies 12: 527-543.
Pi Jun. 2010. “Transgender in China.” Journal of LGBT Youth 7: 346-358.
‘First Lady of Hong Kong TV’ Lily Leung Passes Away at Age 90
Chinese netizens pay their respects to veteran actress Lily Leung Shun-Yin (1929-2019), who passed away on August 13.
While the Hong Kong protests are dominating the headlines, the death of Hong Kong veteran actress Lily Leung Shun-Yin (梁舜燕) has become a top trending topic on social media site Sina Weibo under the hashtag “Hong Kong Actress Liang Shunyan Dies from Illness” (#香港演员梁舜燕病逝#).
The actress was born in Hong Kong in 1929. She starred in dozens of television series, including the first TV drama to be locally broadcasted. She became known as “the first lady of Hong Kong TV.”
Leung acted for TVB and other broadcasters. Some of her more well-known roles were those in Kindred Spirit (真情) and Heart of Greed (溏心风暴).
Leung, also nicknamed ‘Sister Lily’ (Lily姐), passed away on August 13. According to various Chinese media reports, the actress passed peacefully surrounded by family after enduring illness. She was 90 years old.
“I’ve seen so much of her work,” many Weibo netizens say, sharing the favorite roles played by Leung. “I always watched her on TVB while growing up, and will cherish her memory,” one commenter wrote.
Another well-known Hong Kong actress, Teresa Ha Ping (夏萍), also passed away this month. She was 81 years old when she died. Her passing away also attracted a lot of attention on Chinese social media (
Many people express their sadness over the fact that not one but two grand ladies from Hong Kong’s 20th-century entertainment era have passed away this month.
“Those people from our memories pass away one by one, and it represents the passing of an era,” one Weibo user wrote.
“Two familiar faces and old troupers of Hong Kong drama – I hope they rest in peace.”
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The Mulan Makeup Challenge: Traditional Chinese Makeup Goes Trending
Recreating the Mulan make-up look was the biggest beauty challenge on Chinese social media this July.
Since Disney released the official trailer for its live-action Mulan movie earlier this month, Mulan is recurringly appearing in the top trending lists on Chinese social media.
Among all the different topics relating to the upcoming Mulan movie, the Mulan make-up challenge is one that jumps out this month.
The Disney live-action trailer showed a scene in which Mulan, played by Chinese American actress Crystal Liu Fei (刘亦菲), has a full face of betrothal makeup. The original animated Disney movie also features a full makeup Mulan.
Although there was also online criticism of the ‘exaggerated’ makeup, there are many people who appreciate Mulan’s colorful makeup look.
On Weibo, many showed off their skills in copying Mulan’s makeup look this month.
By now, the hashtags “Mulan Makeup Imitation” (#花木兰仿妆#) and “Mulan Makeup Imitation Contest” (#花木兰仿妆大赛#) have attracted over 300 million views.
Makeup such as lipstick has been used in China as far back as two or three thousand years ago.
Makeup vlogger Emma Zhou explains more about Tang Dynasty (618-907) makeup customs here; the skin would be whitened with rice flower, followed by the application of ‘blush’ (pigment of strong-colored flowers) to the cheeks and eyes in a round shape, to emphasize the roundness of the face.
A floral-like decoration would be placed in between the eyebrows.
The yellow forehead, as can be seen in the live-action Mulan, is also known as “Buddha’s makeup,” and was especially popular among ladies during the Tang Dynasty. A yellow aura on the forehead was believed to be auspicious (Schafer 1956, 419).
Although contemporary Chinese makeup trends are much different than those depicted in Mulan, traditional makeup seems to make somewhat of a come-back because of the Disney movie, with hundreds of Chinese netizens imitating the look.
Beauty bloggers such as Nico (@黎千千Nico, image below) receive much praise from Weibo users for their makeup look. Nico wrote: “I even opened the door for the delivery guy this way!”
It is not just girls imitating the look; there are also some boys showing off their Mulan makeup.
Although many still find the Mulan makeup look exaggerated and even “laughable,” there are also those who think it looks really “cool” – of course, depending on whether or not the application is successful.
The Mulan make-up hype will probably continue in 2020; the Mulan movie will come out in late March.
To read more about Mulan, please see our latest feature article on Mulan here.
Schafer, Edward H. 1956. “The Early History of Lead Pigments and Cosmetics in China.” T’oung Pao, Second Series, 44, no. 4/5: 413-38. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4527434.
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