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Top 3 Much-Anticipated Chinese TV Dramas (2019)

These are some of the upcoming Chinese TV dramas to keep an eye on this summer!

Gabi Verberg

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Featuring talented directors and popular superstars, these are some much-anticipated Chinese TV dramas to keep an eye on this year.

Summer is finally coming! Although for many people, summer is the time of the year to open the doors and windows and spend time outside, it also the Chinese peak season for drama series. This year, according to the 365 TV Series site, a total of 105 Chinese drama series will be released from June to September 2019. This includes new seasons of existing series and the launch of new original series.

Most of us, however, don’t have the time or patience to watch all the new releases that are out there. To make it easier for you, What’s on Weibo has selected three promising TV dramas that are coming out this summer.

Different from our other “Top Drama Series” articles, this list is not based on audience ratings. Instead, we have scanned various relevant mainland Chinese TV drama blogs and looked at social media to list these much-anticipated releases.

 

#1 Novoland Eagle Flag

Chinese title: 九州缥缈录 Jiǔzhōu piāomiǎo lù
Genre: Fantasy, Ancient, Martial Arts
Directed by: Zhang Xiaobo (张晓波)
Release date: June 3, 2019 at Zhejiang TV, Youku and Tencent

Update: release has been postponed, read more here.

The heroic epic drama Novolang Eagle Flag is an adapted screenplay from the immensely popular like-named novel by Jiang Nan (江南) and is part of a six-volume collection. The book was released in 2015, and only a few years later it was director Zhang Xiaobo who took up this story to turn it into a drama series.

Despite Zhang’s one-time experience with directing a fantasy story in 2005, his most recent successes include To Be A Better Man (好先生) and The Nanny Man (我爱男保姆): all romantic contemporary dramas. Many TV drama lovers are therefore curious to see if Zhang can be as successful with this upcoming drama as he was with his contemporary ones.

Besides the director, the cast of this drama is also quite outstanding. Three of the four main characters are in their early twenties. The leading role is played by the 21-year-old award-winning actor Liu Yuran (刘吴然). Liu gained national fame with his appearance in the popular military propaganda reality series Takes A Real Man (真正男子汉) in 2015, and ever since he has played in numerous TV series, ranging from fantasy to historical, and comedy to contemporary works.

The story of Novolang Eagle Flag revolves around Lu Guichen, the heir of the nomadic Qingyang tribe. When he is sent to the Eastern Land, he meets Ji Ye, an illegitimate son who is training to become a warrior, and princess Yu Ran. In the process of helping each other, the three become friends. The situation gets complicated when both boys start having romantic feelings for Yu Ran. But a bigger challenge is awaiting them when they join forces to fight the powerful warlord Ying Wuyi.

The airing of Novolang Eagle Flag is very much anticipated on Chinese social media, where the drama’s hashtag (#九州缥缈录#) has already been viewed over 690 million times.

 

#2 Wait In Beijing

Chinese title: 我在北京等你 Wǒ zài Běijīng Děng Nǐ
Genre: Coming of Age, Romance
Directed by: Yan Po (鄢颇) and Eddie Tse (解航)
Release date: Expected August 2019 at Youku, Tencent

Wait in Beijing is the only series in our list that is partly filmed outside of China, namely in New York City. The series is a collaboration between the directors Yan Po and Eddie Tse. The latter studied in New Zealand and authored four books which were all published in China. All of his novels revolve around young people dealing with societal problems.

Wait in Beijing is Tse’s second series. Netizens are curious to see if the rawness of Tse’s previous works will still be visible in this seemingly perfect love story.

The main characters are played by super idols Li Yifen (李易峰) and Jiang Shuying (江疏影), who have 19 million and 55 million followers on Weibo. The series was already filmed and completed in 2018.

Wait in Beijing tells the story of Sheng Xia and Xu Tian. The latter is a Chinese orphan who grew up in Brooklyn, New York, while Sheng was born and raised in China. Xu is a cynical young man striving to become a famous lawyer. Shang is equally ambitious as she seeks to develop her own brand and open a fashion boutique on Fifth Avenue.

Both equally ambitious and eager to pursue their goals, Xu and Sheng one day cross paths. From then on, their feelings and dreams become intertwined. But with Xu’s American and Sheng’s Chinese upbringing, the cultural differences and contrasting views between the two lovers keep them from coming closer together.

The upcoming drama has received 190 million views on its Weibo hashtag page at time of writing.

 

#3 City of Desire/Yearning Life

Chinese title: 欲望之城 Yùwàng zhī Chéng, later changed to 渴望生活 Kěwàng Shēnghuó
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Psychological
Directed by: Liu Jin (刘进)
Release date: Expected September 2019 at Zhejiang TV, Dongfang TV, Youku, iQiyi and Tencent

City of Desire is directed by Liu Jin (刘进), who also produced some of the most successful and largest Chinese TV drama productions in recent years including White Deer Plain (白鹿原). With his new drama series, Liu raises awareness for more contemporary social problems such as anxiety and depression.

This upcoming drama features some of China’s biggest superstars. The two main characters are played by Wu Xiubo (吴秀波) and Angelababy (Yang Ying 杨颖). Wu has received several best actor awards. Angelababy is one of China’s most popular actresses and fashion icons. She’s social media celebrity with more than a staggering 100 million followers on Weibo.

City of Desire follows the life of a man named Jiang Nianhua and the younger woman Lin Li. After a bitter divorce, the childless Jiang gradually builds up his life again and accumulates considerable wealth. To others, it seems as if Jiang got his life all back on track, but in reality, Jiang is battling with severe depression. Just when he decides he cannot take life any longer, he meets the young Lin.

Not long after their encounter, Lin also has to endure emotional hardships and career struggles. When Lin is at the verge of leaving her job because she cannot handle the stress, it is Jiang who motivates her to stay and fight for her position. In the process of Jiang helping Lin getting back on her feet, something changes within him.

Want to see more? Also see our top 10 of February 2019 here, or our list of best Chinese TV dramas of all-time here.

By Gabi Verberg

PS All three series will be available for viewing online, some also with English subtitles. If you need a VPN to circumvent any geo restrictions, we recommend either NordVPN or ExpressVPN to do so.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

Gabi Verberg is a Business graduate from the University of Amsterdam who has worked and studied in Shanghai and Beijing. She now lives in Amsterdam and works as a part-time translator, with a particular interest in Chinese modern culture and politics.

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China Arts & Entertainment

Jia Ling Returns to the Limelight with New “YOLO” Movie and 110-Pound Weight Loss Announcement

After a year away from the spotlight, Chinese actress and director Jia Ling is back, announcing both a new film and slimmer figure.

Manya Koetse

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Chinese actress and director Jia Ling (贾玲) has been trending on Weibo thanks to her upcoming film YOLO (热辣滚烫) and her remarkable weight loss transformation.

Jia Ling is a famous Chinese comedian actress, known for her annual Spring Festival Gala performances. She has been especially successful in the previous years as she made her directorial debut in 2021 with the award-winning box office hit Hi, Mom (Chinese title Hi, Li Huanying 你好,李焕英), in which she also stars as the female protagonist. That same year, audiences saw her as Wu Ge in Embrace Again (穿过寒冬拥抱你).

It has been a while since we’ve heard from Jia Ling, but on January 11, she resurfaced with a Weibo post in which she explained her absence from the limelight.

In her post, Jia wrote that she has spent the entire year working on the YOLO (热辣滚烫) movie, for which she lost a staggering 100 jin (斤) (110 lbs/50 kg). Just as with Hi, Mum, Jia is both the director of YOLO and the lead actress.

According to Jia, it was a tiring and “hungry” year, during which she ended up “looking like a boxer.” She added that the movie, set to premiere during the Spring Festival, is not necessarily about weight loss at all, but about learning to love yourself.

Within a single day, Jia Ling’s post received nearly 60,000 replies and over 855,000 likes.

Jia Ling’s post on Weibo.

The topic became top trending due to various reasons. It is because fans are excited to see Jia Ling back in the limelight and are anticipating the upcoming movie, but also because they are eager to see Jia Ling’s transformation.

From fans on Weibo: Jia Ling fanart and a meme from one of her well-known Spring Festival performances.

A short scene from the movie showed Jia Ling’s slimmer appearance, and a screenshot of it went viral, with Weibo users saying they hardly recognized Jia anymore.

One hashtag related to Jia Ling’s weight loss, about expert views on losing so much weight in such a relatively short time, received over 450 million on Weibo on Thursday (#医生谈贾玲整容式暴瘦#).

Perhaps unsurprisingly, medical experts quoted by Chinese media outlets caution against rapid weight loss methods, recommending a more gradual approach instead.

Nevertheless, there is great interest in the extreme diets of Chinese celebrities. As discussed in an earlier article about China’s celebrity weight craze, the weight loss journey of Chines actors or influencers often capture widespread attention as people are keen to adopt diet plans promoted by celebrities.

YOLO (热辣滚烫), which will hit Chinese theaters on February 10, tells the story of Le Ying (乐莹), who has withdrawn from social life and isolated herself at home ever since graduation. Trying to get her life back on track, Le Ying meets a boxing coach. The meeting proves to be just the beginning of a new journey in life filled with unforeseen challenges.

The Spring Festival holiday typically sees peak box office numbers in China, making this movie highly anticipated, particularly after the success of Hi, Mum three years ago. On Weibo, many view Jia Ling’s weight loss as a testament to her dedication and are eager to see the results of her year-long efforts in the cinema next month.

By Manya Koetse

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©2024 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Celebs

Three Reasons Why Lipstick King’s ‘Eyebrow Pencil Gate’ Has Blown Up

From beauty guru to betrayal: why one livestream moment is shaking China’s internet.

Manya Koetse

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PREMIUM CONTENT

Li Jiaqi, also known as Austin Li the ‘Lipstick King,’ has become the focus of intense media attention in China over the past days.

The controversy began when the popular beauty influencer responded with apparent annoyance to a viewer’s comment about the high price of an eyebrow pencil. As a result, his fans began unfollowing him, netizens started scolding him, Chinese state criticized him, and the memes started flooding in.

Li Jiaqi’s tearful apology did not fix anything.

We reported about the incident here shortly after it went trending, and you can see the translated video of the moment here:

The incident may seem minor at first glance. Li was merely promoting Florasis brand (花西子) eyebrow pencils, and some viewers expressed their opinion that the pencils, priced at 79 yuan ($11), had become more expensive.

In response, Li displayed irritation, questioning, “Expensive how?” He went on to suggest that viewers should also reflect on their own efforts and whether they were working hard enough to get a salary increase.

But there is more to this incident than just an $11 pencil and an unsympathetic response.

 

#1 The King Who Forgot the People Who Crowned Him

 

The initial reaction of netizens to Li Jiaqi’s remarks during the September 10th livestream was characterized by a strong sense of anger and disappointment.

Although celebrities often face scrutiny when displaying signs of arrogance after their rise to fame, the position of Li Jiaqi in the wanghong (internet celebrity) scene has been especially unique. He initially worked as a beauty consultant for L’Oreal within a shopping mall before embarking on his livestreaming career through Alibaba’s Taobao platform.

In a time when consumers have access to thousands of makeup products across various price ranges, Li Jiaqi established himself as a trusted cosmetics expert. People relied on his expertise to recommend the right products at the right prices, and his practice of personally applying and showcasing various lipstick colors made him all the more popular. He soon garnered millions of online fans who started calling him the Lipstick King.

By 2018, he had already amassed a significant fortune of 10 million yuan ($1.53 million). Fast forward three years, and his wealth had ballooned to an astonishing 18.5 billion yuan ($2.5 billion).

Despite his growing wealth, Li continued to enjoy the support of his fans, who appreciated his honest assessments of products during live testing sessions. He was known for candidly informing viewers when a product wasn’t worth buying, and the story of his humble beginnings as a shop assistant played a major role in why people trusted him and wanted him to succeed.

However, his recent change in tone, where he no longer seemed considerate of viewers who might find an $11 brow pencil to be expensive, suggests that he may have lost touch with his own customer base. Some individuals perceive this shift as a form of actual “betrayal” (背叛), as if a close friend has turned their back on them.

The viral cartoon shows Li Jiaqi going from a friendly beggar to angry rat.

One cartoon shared on social media shows Li Jiaqi, with mouse ears, as he initially begs his online viewers for money. However, as he becomes more prosperous, the cartoon portrays him gradually growing arrogant and eventually scolding those who helped him rise to fame.

Many people accuse Li of being insincere, suggesting that he revealed his true colors during that short livestream moment. This is also one of the reasons why most commenters say they do not believe his tears during his apology video.

“He betrayed China’s working class,” one popular vlog suggested.

 

#2 Internet Celebrity Crossing the Lines

 

Another reason why the incident involving Li Jiaqi is causing such a storm is related to the media context in which Chinese (internet) celebrities operate and what is expected of them.

Whether you are an actor, singer, comedian, or a famous livestreamer/e-commerce influencer, Chinese celebrities and performers are seen as fulfilling an exemplary role in society, serving the people and the nation (Jeffrey & Xu 2023). This is why, as explained in the 2019 research report by Jonathan Sullivan and Séagh Kehoe, moral components play such a significant role in Chinese celebrity culture.

In today’s age of social media, the role of celebrities in society has evolved to become even more significant as they have a vast reach and profound influence that extends to countless people and industries.

Their powerful influence makes celebrities important tools for authorities to convey messages that align with their goals – and definitely not contradict them. Through the media and cultural industries, the state can exert a certain level of control within the symbolic economy in which celebrities operate, as discussed by Sullivan and Kehoe in their 2019 work (p. 242).

This control over celebrities’ actions became particularly evident in the case of Li Jiaqi in 2022, following the ‘cake tank incident’ (坦克蛋糕事件). This incident unfolded during one of his livestreams when Li Jiaqi and his co-host introduced a chocolate cake in the shape of a tank, with an assistant in the back mentioning something about the sound of shooting coming from a tank (“坦克突突”). This livestream took place on June 3rd, on the night before the 33rd anniversary of the crackdown on the Tiananmen protests.

While Li Jiaqi did not directly touch upon a politically sensitive issue with his controversial livestream, his actions were perceived as a disregard for customer loyalty and displayed an arrogance inconsistent with socialist core values. This behavior garnered criticism in a recent post by the state media outlet CCTV.

Post by CCTV condemning Li’s behavior.

Other state media outlets and official channels have joined in responding to the issue, amplifying the narrative of a conflict between the ‘common people’ and the ‘arrogant influencer.’

 

#3 Striking a Wrong Chord in Challenging Times

 

Lastly, Li Jiaqi’s controversial livestream moment also became especially big due to the specific words he said about people needing to reflect on their own work efforts if they cannot afford a $11 eyebrow pencil.

Various online discussions and some media, including CNN, are tying the backlash to young unemployment, tepid consumer spending, and the ongoing economic challenges faced by workers in China.

Since recent years, the term nèijuǎn (‘involution’, 内卷) has gained prominence when discussing the frustrations experienced by many young people in China. It serves as a concept to explain the social dynamics of China’s growing middle class who often find themselves stuck in a “rat race”; a highly competitive education and work environment, where everyone is continually intensifying their efforts to outperform one another, leading to this catch 22 situation where everyone appears to be caught in an unending cycle of exertion without substantial progress (read more here).

Weibo commenters note that, given China’s current employment situation and wage levels, hard work is not necessarily awarded with higher income. This context makes Li Jiaqi’s comments seem even more unnecessary and disconnected from the realities faced by his customers. One Shanghai surgeon responded to Li’s comments, saying that the fact that his salary has not increased over the last few year certainly is not because he is not working hard enough (#上海胸外科医生回应李佳琦言论#).

Some observers also recognize that Li, as an e-commerce professional, is, in a way, trapped in the same cycle of “inversion” where brands are continuously driving prices down to such low levels that consumers perceive it as the new normal. However, this pricing strategy may not be sustainable in the long run. (Ironically, some brands currently profiting from the controversy by promoting their own 79 yuan deals, suggesting their deal is much better than Li’s. Among them is the domestic brand Bee & Flower 蜂花, which is offering special skin care products sets for 79 yuan in light of the controversy.)

Many discussions therefore also revolve around the question of whether 79 yuan or $11 can be considered expensive for an eyebrow pencil, and opinions are divided. Some argue that people pay much more for skincare products, while others point out that if you were to weigh the actual quantity of pencil color, its price would surpass that of gold.

The incident has sparked discussions about the significance of 79 yuan in today’s times, under the hashtag “What is 79 yuan to normal people” (#79元对于普通人来说意味着什么#).

People have shared their perspectives, highlighting what this amount means in their daily lives. For some, it represents an entire day’s worth of home-cooked meals for a family. It exceeds the daily wages of certain workers, like street cleaners. Others equate it to the cost of 15 office lunches.

One netizen posts 79 yuan ($10.9) worth of groceries.

Amid all these discussions, it also becomes clear that many people are trying to live a frugal live in a time when their wages are not increasing, and that Li’s comments are just one reason to vent their frustrations about the situation they are in, In those regards, Li’s remarks really come at a wrong time, especially coming from a billionaire.

Will Li be able to continue his career after this?

Some are suggesting that it is time for Li to take some rest, speculating that Li’s behavior might stem from burn-out and mental issues. Others think that Li’s hardcore fans will remain loyal to their e-commerce idol.

For now, Li Jiaqi must tread carefully. He has already lost 1.3 million followers on his Weibo account. What’s even more challenging than regaining those one million followers is rebuilding the trust of his viewers.

Update: On September 19, the Florasis/Huaxizi brand finally apologized for its late response to the controversy, and the brand stated that the controversy provided an opportunity for them to listen to “the voice of their consumers.” Their decision to release a statement seemed fruitful: they gained 20,000 new followers in a night.

By Manya Koetse

with contributions by Miranda Barnes

Jeffreys, Elaine, and Jian Xu. 2023. “Governing China’s Celebrities.” Australian Institute of International Affairs, 18 May https://www.internationalaffairs.org.au/australianoutlook/governing-chinas-celebrities/ [12 Sep 2023].

Sullivan, Jonathan, and Séagh Kehoe. 2019. “Truth, Good and Beauty: The Politics of Celebrity in China.” The China Quarterly 237 (March): 241–256.

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.

©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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