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The Success of China’s Hit Talk Show Qi Pa Shuo (U Can U Bibi)

The fourth season of China’s most popular online talk show Qi Pa Shuo is well underway. Using trendy design and funny sound effects, the show is a fresh debate competition where Chinese celebrities and showbiz newcomers discuss contemporary social and cultural issues. Qi Pa Shuo is a new type of entertainment show especially liked by China’s post-1980s and post-1990s generations for various reasons.

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The fourth season of China’s most popular online talk show Qi Pa Shuo is well underway. Using trendy design and funny sound effects, the show is a fresh debate competition where Chinese celebrities and showbiz newcomers discuss contemporary social and cultural issues. Qi Pa Shuo is a new type of entertainment show especially liked by China’s post-1980s and post-1990s generations for various reasons.

Not a week goes by without Qi Pa Shuo (奇葩说), an online talk show competition created by iQiyi (爱奇艺), becoming the focus of discussion on Chinese social media sites. Although the show is already in its fourth season, it is now more popular than ever.

Qi Pa Shuo is a contemporary talk show concept that brings together a group of very diverse – often funny and extravagant – Chinese people to debate various topics and dilemma’s relating to, amongst others, love, marriage, family, career, and friendship.

Qi Pa Shuo was first aired in November of 2014 and still has staggering viewer ratings. The talk show is also big on Weibo, where its official page has over 1,1 million fans. Hashtags related to the show often become trending topics.

The panel of hosts/judges on Qi Pa Shuo, led by He Jiong, a key figure in China’s entertainment industry.

The huge success of the show lies in its marketing and concept as a purely online variety show that brings a somewhat sophisticated form of celebrity entertainment.

 

LET’S GET IT ONLINE: BOOMING ONLINE VIDEO MARKET

“Chinese tech giant Xiaomi paid a staggering 140 million rmb (±20 million US$) to be Qipashuo’s main sponsor.”

 

Qi Pa Shuo is an online talkshow, meaning that is created by Chinese online video portal iQiyi, where it is streamed twice a week. It is also online in the sense that the show interacts with topics that come from Chinese online social media.

Although China still has a flourishing television market, younger audiences now prefer online streaming to traditional TV channels. China has the largest online population in the world, and 88% of its internet users watch online videos, either on mobile or computer.

This percentage is higher when it comes to the younger online audiences, with 90.6% of the post-95s generation visiting video websites.

iQiyi (爱奇艺) is one of the biggest online video platforms of China. Sometimes referred to as “China’s Netflix”, iQiyi is an ad-supported video portal that offers high-definition licensed content to registered users. Apart from its online library with a myriad of movies from China and abroad, iQiyi also has its own production studio that produces films and other online content.

With the creation of Qi Pa Shuo, iQiyi has made a smart move. Since the majority of iQiyi users are born post-1980s, the program caters to the interests of that generation – not just in terms of content, but also in terms of style and fashion. The show already had 260 million views and then 300 million views in its first and second season.

The show is free to watch but is heavily sponsored; not a scene goes by without seeing product placement. Chinese tech giant Xiaomi reportedly paid a staggering 140 million rmb (±20 million US$) to be Qi Pa Shuo’s main sponsor for the fourth season. The Xiaomi brand name is visible in the show’s logo and practically everywhere else in the studio.

Qi Pa Shuo’s host He Jiong with branded content from sponsors on his desk.

Besides Xiaomi and Head & Shoulders shampoo, Chunzhen Yoghurt is also a prominent sponsor of the show, with packs of the products standing on all desks and tables.

As mentioned, the show is not just broadcasted online, it also interacts with online topics; the issues addressed in the show are selected from different online Chinese Quora-like Q&A forums such as Baidu Zhidao and Zhihu.

The most popular online topics related to love, lifestyle & career are selected to come on the show. In selecting the topics this way, the producers already know that they are of interest to a great number of netizens.

 

RIGHT TOPICS, RIGHT PEOPLE

“Is it a waste for women with a higher education to become a full-time housewife?”

 

Over the past few years, Qi Pa Shuo has seen a myriad of topics, including:

– “Is it okay to check your partner’s mobile phone?”
– “Should you have a stable career by 30 or should you chase your dreams?”
– “Can you get married without being in love?”
– “Is it a waste for women with a higher education to become a full-time housewife?”
– “Should you push your friends to return the money you borrowed them?”
– “Could you be a single mum?”
– “Should you help a school friend who is being bullied in fighting back or do you tell the teacher?”
– “Will you be happier with or without buying a house?”

Participants on the show, some being established names and others newcomers to Chinese showbiz, battle against each other in two teams in who is the best debater and who has the best Chinese speech skills. Celebrity judges or ‘mentors’ have to comment on the performance of the debaters, and debaters also have to try to convince the audience.

Qi Pa Shuo is called ‘Let’s Talk’ or ‘U Can You BiBi’ in English (the latter is a wordplay on Chinglish), but its Chinese title can be roughly translated as “Weirdo’s Say” or “Unusual Talk.” The term “Qi Pa” (奇葩) is often used to describe someone or something that is very odd or unusual. Participants on the show, both the newcomers and the well-known faces, are outspoken personalities with a special way of talking or unique fashion style.

By bringing together an eclectic group of big names and newbies, Qi Pa Shuo has the best of both worlds; it is a platform that attracts viewers because it features some of China’s most loved celebrities (host He Jiong, for example, has 83.8 million followers on Weibo), and it also keeps fans curious and attracted by introducing some new faces (Hu Tianya, Yan Rujing, Jiang Sida, etc.) – many of which have already become major celebrities themselves since the start of the show.

Presenter Shen Xia a.k.a. Dawang (1989) gained popularity after appearing on Qipashuo as a debater.

Although many of the topics discussed are frivolous and funny (“What would you do if you found an egg placed by an alien?”), the show has also seen some groundbreaking moments since it first aired.

Yan Rujing (1991) had her major breakthrough after becoming a Qi Pa Shuo debater.

In 2015, an episode on whether or not gays should come out to their parents moved many people to tears when celebrity mentor Kevin Tsai (Cai Kangyong/蔡康永) spoke openly about coming out as homosexual during his career as a Taiwanese TV host.

In an emotional speech, Tsai shared his difficult experiences of being openly gay in the showbusiness and said he hoped to convince people that “we’re not monsters.”

The show also made headlines in 2016 when internet celebrity Xi Ming a.k.a. Chao Xiaomi came on the show to talk about how it is to be gender fluid and not conform to a certain gender.

Chao Xiaomi came on the show in 2016 and discussed experiences as gender fluid individual (image via Time Out Beijing 2016).

Reactions on Chinese social media show just how alive the issues discussed in Qi Pa Shuo are, as topics adressed during the show often turn into heated discussions on Sina Weibo and other social media platforms, where netizens give their own viewpoint or discuss why they think their favorite debater is the best public speaker.

 

IMPROVING SPEECH SKILLS

“Communicating, convincing, negotiating, public speaking, debating – it is a basic skill we use in everyday life, but really mastering it is not easy.”

 

Recently, the success of Qi Pa Shuo is also often discussed in the Chinese media. According to an article by Rednet.com, one important reason why the talk show is such a hit is because young people in China are increasingly interested in debating and improving speech skills.

The Rednet article argues that Qi Pa Shuo is part of a broader talk show entertainment genre that is currently becoming more popular, showing that after online games and more superficial types of entertainment, there is now a new group of online audiences who want to see entertainment that is a bit more sophisticated and educational.

The growing interest in speech skills is also evident looking at the success of the podcasts and books on how to speak that sprang from the show, initiated by mentor Ma Dong and debater Ma Weiwei. Having good debating skills and general eloquence is seen as an asset for one’s career and social status.

Ma Weiwei (left) and Ma Dong.

“Because Qipashuo recommended this book, I simply just bought it to read it,” one netizen says on Weibo: “Who does not want to be able to speak like people such as Ma Dong or Ma Weiwei, so composed and self-assured. The book is pretty good, it teaches people how to speak well and how to say the right thing, it all makes sense. Communicating, convincing, negotiating, public speaking, debating – it is a basic skill we use in everyday life, but really mastering it is not easy.”

“How to Speak Well”, the book that have sprung from the Qi Pa Shuo programme.

On Weibo there are also vloggers like Baituola Junior (@拜托啦学妹) who take the topics as discussed in Qi Pa Shuo and make people on the streets discuss them.

These kinds of videos and trends show the rise of a generation that has a passion for speaking their mind and building strong arguments. Qi Pa Shuo further stimulates this drive by showing that anyone – girl or boy, young or old, gay or straight, goofy or trendy, celebrity or not – can be an effective and witty speaker if they put their mind to it.

Qi Pa Shuo is broadcasted every Friday and Saturday at 20.00 at iQiyi.com.

– By Manya Koetse

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

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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, Sino-Japanese relations and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Alex

    May 25, 2017 at 4:36 am

    Very interesting article! Is there somewhere I can watch this with English subtitles? My Chinese is not good enough to follow yet… I’m particularly interested in Chao Xiaomi’s episode about gender fluidity

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China Media

‘Wo Ting Bu Dong’: Rap Video Portrays Foreigners’ Life in China

Rap video “Another day in China” was shared by Xinhua News Agency.

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A new rap video posted by Chinese state media titled “Another Day in China” is supposed to depict the typical life of foreigners in China.

Chinese state media outlet Xinhua News Agency has released a new English-language rap video on December 7th about ‘foreigners’ life in China’ through its official New China TV YouTube Channel.

On the American American social news platform Reddit, people wonder if this is ‘the most embarrassing state media music video yet.’

The song is dominated by text and lacks instrumental energy. Although the people in the video dance vigorously to the chorus, it never really takes off – which makes the whole video slightly awkward, but nevertheless, fun to watch:

The video, which was produced by Ychina (@歪果仁研究协会), a Beijing-based blogging channel focused on foreigners in China, was posted on Weibo on December 5. It has since been shared 6500 times and has received nearly 20,000 likes.

The song is written and sung by a singer named Dylan Jaye (@钟逸伦Dylan, 51,000+ fans on Weibo), and describes the ‘everyday life’ of a foreigner in China, from ordering Chinese dumplings (jiaozi) to ordering stuff from Taobao and being ‘super screwed without a phone.’ In the video, Dylan is joined by his other ‘laowai’ friends, such as Amy (@李慧琳Amy), an Australian young woman with over 16,000 fans on Weibo.

On Weibo, Dylan Jaye describes it as his “genuine experience of living in China for so long.”

The song, that is subtitled in both English and Chinese, starts with the following text:

Rolling out of bed, Middle Kingdom
Knocking feeling like a drum
Breakfast at the door, jiaozi
Last night ordered them

Waimai dude speaking fangyan
I’m feeling dumb
But these days
I’ll never get bored of them

Because we’re living here in China
I’m a rhymer
Telling you the story of this setting
Through the eyes of another waiguoren
The ones that came out here they call helmsman

And now I’m flipping through Taobao
and somehow with the know-how and Zhi Fu Bao
You can buy anything you want on this website
And the things you didn’t know you wanted til sight

Dylan then continues, singing:

Call me crazy, call me crazy
But I came here for something new
Don’t say maybe, we don’t say maybe
We say this, well I can do.

And the chorus goes:

You ask why China
Yeah we reply why not China
Take on its confusing hutongs and streets
And make it on your own

You ask why China
Yeah we reply why not China
With waimai, kuaidi, Wechat
I’d be super-screwed without my phone

The singer also adds some world politics to the song when he sings:

I’ve been thinking after Donald Trump and Brexit and the chaos and the mayhem
I’ll sit here and sip oolong and I dancing with old people dancing in the park and I
Barely understand them asking who we are, reply
Ni shuo shenme? [What are you saying?]
Wo ting bu dong [I don’t understand].

As the sentence ‘ting bu dong’ [I don’t understand] is generally one of the first sentences foreigners in China know – and often use -, it has become such a cliche that in some online circles, there are even stories and cartoons about a typical foreigner in China named Tim Budong.

Over the past few years, various rap videos released by Chinese state media have made headlines in English-language media. Last year, a rap song praising Karl Marx became a hot news item. Recently, state media also explained China’s modernization through a rap song. Eearlier this year another remarkable music video was launched to celebrate the Belt and Road initiative (see below).

On Reddit, one commenter says the song by Dylan released by state media is “Pretty cringey, but there have been way cringier music videos released by the party.” Another person responds that they “personally find foreign shills to be so much more embarrassing.”

On Weibo, however, many netizens applaud the video, calling it funny and well-written: “It’s just so good,” some say, with others writing: “I just can’t stop listening to it. It’s contagious.”

– 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.

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China Arts & Entertainment

China’s Top TV Dramas to Watch This Winter

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

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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.

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What’s on Weibo provides social, cultural & historical insights into an ever-changing China. What’s on Weibo sheds light on China’s digital media landscape and brings the story behind the hashtag. This independent news site is managed by sinologist Manya Koetse. Contact info@whatsonweibo.com. ©2014-2017

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