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Top 30 Classic TV Dramas in China: The Best Chinese Series of All Time

This year marks 60 years of Chinese TV drama. These are the best Chinese TV dramas of all time.

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They might have aired 30 years ago, but some TV dramas just never get old. We have listed the greatest classic Chinese TV dramas of all time, that, either because of their high-production value or historic ratings, are still talked about today. A special overview by What’s on Weibo, as China celebrates 60 years of TV drama this year.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of Chinese TV drama since the airing of the very first (one-episode) drama A Mouthful of Vegetable Pancakes (一口菜饼子) in 1958 – the same year in which the very first Chinese television station started broadcasting (Bai 2007, 77).

The drama, live broadcasted by Beijing Television, sent out a message of frugality, as one young girl warns her sister not to waste food by remembering her of their difficult past and brave mother, who died of hunger while even refusing to eat the last bit of food, a vegetable pancake.

A Mouthful of Pancakes aired in 1958.

Much has changed within those sixty years. After a time when the production of TV dramas practically came to a standstill during the Cultural Revolution, the late 1970s and early 1980s saw a boom in the popularity of television dramas, along with a spike in households that owned their own TV. From 1980 to 1990, the number of household television sets in China increased from 5 to 160 million (Wang & Singhal 1992, 177).

Since the 1980s, mainland China has gone from a country where most television dramas were imported from outside the country, to one that has the most thriving domestic TV drama industry in the world.

Some TV dramas in this list have become classics through time, some are fairly new but have already become classics within their genre.

This list has been fully compiled by What’s on Weibo, based on popularity charts on Chinese search engine Sogou’s top tv drama listings of all time, together with ranking on Douban, a big Chinese social networking service and influential media review website, and also based on academic sources that note the importance of some of these TV classics.*1 We will list a recommendation list of relevant books at the end of this article.

Most of these series will have links redirecting to available versions on Youtube or elsewhere – unless written otherwise, they do not have English subtitles. Please share English subtitled versions in the comment section if you found them, we’ll add them to the list.

This article is focused on those classics that have been important for the TV drama industry and audiences of mainland China. Although several of them were produced in Hong Kong or Taiwan, the majority is from the PRC. These dramas are listed in chronological order of appearance, not listed based on rankings.

Here we go!

 

#1 The Bund / The Shanghai Bund (上海滩)

Year: 1980
Episodes: 25
Genre: Action
Produced in Hong Kong

Noteworthy: “The Godfather of the East”

This TV drama became such a sensation across China in 1980, that it also became known as the Chinese equivalent to the classic Godfather series.

Actors Angie Chiu and Chow Yun-Fat star in this Hong Kong drama, that is set in the underworld society of 1920s Shanghai, and revolves around the tumultuous love story between Feng Chengcheng and Xu Wenqiang.

The series has become such a classic that it still plays an important role in popular culture of China today, with newer films and TV dramas also being based on the original series (the 2007 mainland China TV series Shanghai Bund, for example, is a remake of the 1980 original). If you ever go to karaoke, you’re probably already familiar with the shows’ famous theme song ‘Seung Hoi Tan’ (上海滩) by Frances Yip (see here).

 

#2 Eighteen Years in the Enemy’s Camp (敌营十八年)

Year: 1981
Episodes: 9
Genre: War Drama
Watch the first episode here on Youtube.

Noteworthy: “The first TV drama produced by CCTV”

Eighteen Years in the Enemy’s Camp is somewhat of a cult classic in China. Despite the fact that the TV drama itself was somewhat poorly produced, it still gets high ratings on sites such as QQ Video or Douban today.

At a time when the Chinese TV drama market was still dominated by imported television series (from Hong Kong, US, and other places), Eighteen Years in the Enemy’s Camp was the first drama series made by CCTV (Bai 2007, 80), directed by Wang Fulin (王扶林) and Du Yu (都郁).

The story revolves around the Communist Party member Jiang Bo (江波), who spends 18 years undercover in the “tiger’s den” (虎穴), the enemy’s camp, as a National Army officer, thwarting the Nationalists’ plans until the 1949 victory of the Communists.

Fun fact by Ruoyun Bai (see references): despite the fact that the entire show is about the Nationalists Army, not a single Nationalist Army uniform could be found for the cast. The uniforms that were used, were not up to par: the main character had to leave his coat’s collar unbuttoned because it was too tight, and always has his hat in his hands because it was actually too small to fit his head (2007, 80-81).

 

#3 Ji Gong (济公)

Year: 1985
Episodes: 12
Genre: Fantasy
Directed by Zhang Ge (张戈)
All episodes can be watched here on YouTube.

Noteworthy: “Influenced by Charlie Chaplin”

This popular TV series is centered around Ji Gong, the folk hero and Chan Buddhist monk who lived in the Southern Song and, according to legend, had supernatural powers and spent his whole life helping the poor.

The main role is played by renowned Chinese artist and mime master You Benchang (游本昌). In an interview with CRI, the actor once said that he was heavily influenced by his idol Charlie Chaplin for this role, sometimes even imitating some of Chaplin’s gestures.

 

#4 Chronicles of The Shadow Swordsman (萍踪侠影)

Year: 1985
Episodes: 25
Genre: Wuxia/Martial
Directed by: Wang Xinwei (王心慰)
Produced in Hong Kong
Episodes available on Youtube here.

Noteworthy: “Perfect Chemistry between Leading Actors”

This classic TV drama features actors Damian Lau as Zhang Danfeng and Michelle Yim as Yun Lei, whom are often praised by drama lovers for their perfect chemistry in these series. Of the many adaptations there are of Liang Yusheng’s wuxia novel Chronicles of The Shadow Swordsman, many say this is their favorite.

 

#5 New Star (新星)

Year: 1986
Episodes: 12
Directed by: Li Xin (李新)

Noteworthy: “A drama anyone over 50 will remember”

This CCTV mini-drama, based on the novel by Ke Yunlu (柯云路), tells the story of a young Party secretary fighting against corruption. Before Heaven Above (later in this list), it is thus one of the very first dramas to focus on corruption as a theme, and it also caused a buzz at the time for doing so – most people over 50 in China today will probably remember this TV series today.

 

#6 Journey to the West (西游记)

Year: 1986
Episodes: 25 for season one, 16 episodes for season 2
Directed by Yang Jie (杨洁)
Watch on Youtube (with English subtitles!) here.

Noteworthy: “Shot with one camera”

This is an all-time favorite TV series in China that is still rated with a 9.5 on the TV drama database of search engine Sogou. It has been an instant classic from the moment it was first broadcasted by CCTV in October of 1986.

Journey to the West (Xīyóu jì 西游记), published in the 16th century (Ming dynasty), is one of the most important classical works in the history of Chinese literature, and tells the story of the long journey to India of the Tang Monk Xuánzàng, who is on a mission to obtain Buddhist sutras. He is joined by three disciples, the pig demon Zhū Bājiè, the river demon Shā Wùjìng, and Sūn Wùkōng, who is better known as the Monkey King in the West.

The Monkey in the series is played by Zhang Jinlai (章金莱), also known as Liu Xiao Ling Tong, who recently recalled in an CGTN article that: “it was 30 years ago and we’d got only one camera. We walked around China’s picturesque areas and took 17 years to make 41 episodes. 17 years equals Monk Xuanzang’s pilgrimage for the Buddhist scriptures.”

 

#7 “The Dream of Red Chambers” (红楼梦)

Year: 1987
Episodes: 36
Directed by: Wang Fulin (王扶林)
Watch with English subtitles on YouTube here.

Noteworthy: “The first entry of Chinese tv drama into the global market”

Even today, this CCTV TV series from 1987 is still rated as one of the best Chinese television series of all time on Sogou, where viewers rate it with a 9.6.

Like other series in this list, this is an adaptation from a classic literary work; Dream of the Red Chamber (Hónglóumèng), one of China’s Four Great Classical Novels, which was written by Cao Xueqin in the mid-18th century during the Qing.

In June of 1987, this TV drama became the first Chinese television series to be exported to Malaysia and West-Germany, making it “the first entry of Chinese tv drama into the global market” (Hong, 32).

 

#8 The Investiture of the Gods (封神榜)

Year: 1990
Episodes: 36
Genre: Fantasy/Costume Drama
Directed by: Guo Xinling (郭信玲)
The first episode is available on YouTube here.

Noteworthy: “Based on the classical novel Fengshen Yanyi

This TV series is based on the classical novel Fēngshén Yǎnyì (封神演義), also known as Investiture of the Gods or Creation of the Gods), written by Xu Zhonglin and Lu Xixing. Famous Chinese actor and painter Lan Tianye (蓝天野) was praised for his role as Jiang Ziya in this drama.

The (female) director Guo Xinling (1936-2012) was a Party member who worked on many televised works during her career.

Just as many others of the series in this list based on classic novels, there are remakes of these series in recent times.

 

#9 Yearnings / Kewang (渴望)

Year: 1990
Episodes: 50
Genre: Family drama
Directed by Lu Xiaowei (鲁晓威) and Zhao Baoguang (赵宝刚).

Noteworthy: “China’s first soap opera – a national craze”

Yearnings is also known as China’s real first soap opera, which caused a sensation across the nation – sales of TV sets surged, and streets were empty when it aired.

The story’s time spans from the Cultural Revolution until the 1980s reform period. The series, set in Beijing, tells the story of working-class woman Liu Huifang and her unlikely marriage to the middle-class Wang Husheng, a university graduate who comes from a family of intellectuals. When Huifang finds an abandoned baby, she adopts it against the will of her husband.

As the first TV series that focused on the hopes and dreams of ordinary Chinese people, the success of Yearnings was unprecedented, and it formed the beginning of Chinese television drama as we know it today.

 

#10 River of Gratitude (江湖恩仇录)

Year: 1989
Episodes: 20
Genre: Wuxia/Martial
Directed by: Mao Yuqin (毛玉勤)
Watch first episode on Youtube here

Noteworthy: “A true classic – it’s nostalgia!”

One of the main stars in this series is actress and producer Wenying Dongfang (东方闻樱), who also starred in A Dream in Red Mansion (1987).

By commenters on Douban, this series is described as a “cult classic.” Although some say the quality of the series, now, looking back, is somewhat substandard or silly, according to many, the nostalgia of seeing it in the early 1990s and being excited about it seems to play a major factor in why people still grade this one as a true classic – it’s nostalgia!

 

#11 Wan Chun (婉君)

Year: 1990
Episodes: 18
Produced in Taiwan

Noteworthy: “The first Taiwanese TV series filmed in mainland China”

Wan Chun is a 1990 Taiwanese television series about a girl named Wan Chun and her three adoptive brothers, that is based on the 1964 novel “Wan-chun’s Three Loves” (追尋) by Taiwanese writer and producer Chiung Yao, and which is set in Republican era Beijing.

This is the first cross-strait co-production, as a Taiwanese TV series filmed in mainland China. Wan Chun was followed up by the 1990 Taiwanese television drama series Mute Wife based on Chiung Yao’s 1965 novelette of the same name.

 

#12 The Legend of Qianlong (戏说乾隆)

Year: 1991
Episodes: 41
Genre: Imperial drama
Produced in Taiwan (Taiwan-mainland co-production)
Watch on Youtube here

Noteworthy: “The beginning of a genre”

In today’s TV drama environment of China, dramas that focus on life during the imperial era are ubiquitous, with titles from the Imperial Doctress to Story of Yanxi Palace being everywhere.

But when this drama aired in the early 1990s, it was something quite new. The Legend of Qianlong, also known with the English translation A Fanciful Account of Qianlong, tells the (fictional) stories of the Emperor Qianlong’s Tours of Southern China.

It was the beginning of a drama genre that turned out to be hugely popular, with many new television series focusing on emperors and empresses in their youth or their tumultuous lives during the height of their power (Barme 2012, 33). Perhaps, this 1991 series will always be a classic just because it was one of the first within its genre.

 

#13 The Legend of the White Snake (新白娘子传奇)

Year: 1992
Episodes: 50
Genre: Fantasy
Produced in Taiwan

Noteworthy: “One of the most replayed TV series”

As many of the classics in this list, this hit TV series is also based on a folk legend, namely that of Madame White Snakee, a mythical snake-like spirit who strives to be human, which is a source for many major Chinese operas, films.

The 1992 TV series stars Angie Chiu and Cecilia Yip. In 2016, it was still one of the most replayed TV series. Even on IMDB, it is rated with an 8.2.

 

#14 Beijinger in New York (北京人在纽约)

Year: 1993
Episodes: 21
Watch: YouTube
Buy novel (in English): Beijinger in New York

Noteworthy: “The first Chinese-language TV show to be shot in the United States”

The TV series Beijinger in New York, also known as A Native of Beijing in New York, based on the novel by Glen Cao (Cao Guilin), was a hit when it was first broadcasted broadcast nightly on CCTV and watched by millions of Chinese.

The story follows the immigrant life of cello player and Beijinger Wang Qiming (王起明), who arrives in New York in 1980 together with his wife, and begins working as a dishwasher the next day.

The TV series marks a first in several aspects. It was the first Chinese-language TV show to be shot in the United States, but it was also the first time ever for the production of a Chinese TV drama that a bank loan was used in order to make it possible (Bai 2007, 83); in other words, it also marks the start of a more commercialized TV drama environment. FYI: the bank loan that was used was a total of US$1.3 million.

 

#15 I Love My Family (我爱我家)

Year: 1993
Genre: Comedy
Episodes: 120
Directed by Ying Da (英达) et al
First episodes on Youtube here.

Noteworthy: “First Mandarin-language sitcom”

I Love My Family (Wǒ ài wǒjiā) is one of China’s first popular sitcoms, and the first Mandarin-language and multi-camera sitcom, that aired from 1993 to 1994. It has since been rerun on local channels countless of times.

One of the show’s central stars is Wen Xingyu (文兴宇), who was a popular comedian and director in mainland China.

At the time of I Love My Family, sitcoms were mostly characterized by their low production cost; three episodes were made within five working days (Di 2008, 122).

 

#16 Justice Pao (包青天)

Year: 1993
Episodes: 236
Genre: Historical drama
Produced in Taiwan
Some episodes on Youtube here.

Noteworthy: “From 15 to 236 episodes”

This series is themed around Bao Zheng (包拯), a government official who lived during China’s Song Dynasty, from 999 to 1062, and who was known for his extreme honesty and uprightness. Award-winning Taiwanese actor Jin Chao-chun (金超群) plays this role.

The series was originally scheduled for just 15 episodes, but was received so well when it aired on Chinese Television System, that it was eventually expanded to 236 episodes.

The story of Justice Bao is still a recurring topic in the popular culture of mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. There was the 2008 Chinese series Justice Bao, and the 2010 New Justice Bao, that also starred Jin Chao-chun.

 

#17 Romance of the Three Kingdoms (三国演义)

Year: 1994
Episodes: 84
Genre: Historical drama
Directed by: Wang Fulin (王扶林)
Buy original novel here: The Romance of the Three Kingdoms
Some episodes available with English subtitles here.

Noteworthy: “400,000 people involved in the production”

This is another classic TV series produced by the CCTV, and that is also adapted from a classical novel (same title, written by Luo Guanzhong). Its director, Wang Fulin (王扶林), also directed the CCTV’s first TV drama Eighteen Years in the Enemy’s Camp, and A Dream of Red Mansions.

The production of Romance of the Three Kingdoms is especially noteworthy because the productions costs broke all kinds of records at the time; the production of the 84 one-hour episodes took four years, total costs were over 170 million RMB (±US$25 million), and around 400,000 people were involved – the larghest number of people involved in a production in the history of Chinese television. THe show has been watched by some 1,2 billion people around the world (Hongb 2007, 127).

 

#18 Heaven’s Above (苍天在上)

Year: 1995
Episodes: 17
Genre: Corruption drama (or ‘anti-corruption drama’ 反腐剧)
Directed by: Zhou Huan (周寰)

Noteworthy: “First drama about high-level official corruption”

In late 1995, the CCTV drama Heaven Above (Cāngtiān zài shàng) debuted on Chinese TV as the first TV series about high-level official corruption in the PRC.

It would certainly not be the last, as ‘corruption dramas’ became wildly popular – it is the entire focus of the 2014 book Staging Corruption by scholar Ruoyun Bai.

 

#19 Foreign Babes in Beijing (洋妞在北京)

Year: 1995
Genre: Urban drama
Episodes: 20

Noteworthy: “Foreign women in Chinese dramas”

Foreign Babes in Beijing (Yáng niū zài Běijīng) was one of the new kinds of dramas that featured foreigners in China. This series focues on two Chinese men and two American women, of which one seduces one of the Chinese (married) men. The show was a big hit in the mid-1990s.

One of the show’s actresses, Rachel Dewoskin, later wrote the recommended book Foreign Babes in Beijing: Behind the Scenes of a New China about her experiences of playing in the show and her life in China at the time.

 

#20 My Dear Motherland (我亲爱的祖国)

Year: 1999
Episodes: 21
Genre: History/War
Directed by: Liu Yiran (刘毅然)
Watch on Billibilli here, QQ, or on Youtube.

Noteworthy: “Rated with a 9.1”

This 1999 series is still rated with a 9.1 on Douban today. The series tells the experiences and hardships of three generations of Chinese intellectuals during the tumultuous (war)history of China’s 20th century, starting during the May Fourth Movement in 1919.

Chen Jianbin (陈建斌) is one of the famous actors starring in this TV drama as Fang Xuetong.

 

#21 Yongzheng’s Dynasty (雍正王朝)

Year: 1999
Episodes: 44
Genre: History/Costume

Noteworthy: “Qing drama as export product”

Yongzheng Dynasty is one of many so-called “Qing dramas” – TV dramas that focus on palace life during the 1644-1911 Qing Dynasty. According to scholar Zhu (2008), one of the reasons that dynasty dramas such as these became so enormously popular in mainland China is that (1) certain social and political issues can be discussed in the shape of stories and settings that are very much removed from modern-day China, allowing for more relaxed censorship policies on storylines and dialogues, and (2) that the reconstruction of “history” allows room for artistic interventions (22).

This epic TV drama was loosely based on historical events in the reigns of the Kangxi and Yongzheng Emperors, and became one of the most watched television series in mainland China of the 1990s. Also outside of China the show became very popular, making the so-called ‘Qing dramas’ an export product.

 

#22 Towards the Republic (走向共和)

Year: 2003
Episodes: 59 (one hour per episode)
Genre: Historical drama
Directed by: Zhang Li (张黎)
Watch on Youtube , buy on Amazon with English subtitles.

Noteworthy: “59 hours of historical drama”

This is one of the most important TV series in this list. On Sogou ratings, Towards the Republic, which is also known as For the Sake of the Republic (Zǒuxiàng gònghé), is one of netizens’ top all-time favorite series, rated with a 9.7.

The CCTV TV drama tells the story of the historical events in China from 1890 to 1917 – the time during which the Qing Dynasty collapsed, and the Republic of China (1912-1949) was founded. Important historical events such as the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895), the Hundred Days’ Reform (1898), the Boxer Rebellion (1900) and the Xinhai Revolution (1911) are all featured in this epic drama, that mainly focuses on the lives of Li Hongzhang (Chinese general in late Qing), Empress Dowager Cixi, Sun Yat-Sen, and Yuan Shikai.

The historical drama was not without controversy, and some parts of it have been censored in mainland China. The original series had 60 episodes, which was later brought down to 59. The TV drama has also been a fruitful topic for scholars for its representation of history. In the 2007 book Representing History in Chinese Media: The TV Drama Zou Xiang Gonghe (Towards the Republic) by Gotelind Mueller, the entire series is analyzed in how history is portrayed and narrated.

 

#23 Crimson Romance (血色浪漫)

Year: 2004
Episodes: 32
Genre Youth drama
Directed by: Teng Wenji (滕文骥)
Watch on Youtube here.

Noteworthy: “Romantizing the Cultural Revolution”

There are almost 40,000 netizens ranking this 2004 TV drama on Douban, where it scores a 8.7.

The TV drama, which is also known as Romantic Life in English, dramatizes memories of the Cultural Revolution, focusing on a group of friends, their hopes and dreams, and their romantic life. It is set in Beijing in the late period of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).

 

#24 Fu Gui (福贵)

Year: 2005
Episodes: 33
Genre: Family drama
Directed by Zhu Zheng (朱正)
Original novel: To Live: A Novel
Watch on Youtube.

Noteworthy: “Based on the novel To Live

Chuang Chen (陈创), Liu Mintao (刘敏涛), and Li Ding (李丁) star in this family drama, which is ranked with a 9.4 on Sogou, and 4,5 stars or a 9,4 on Douban (more than 5500 voters).

The drama is based on the 1993 novel by Yu Hua (余华) To Live (活着), which focuses on the struggles of the son of a wealthy land-owner, Xu Fugui, amidst the tumultuous times of the Chinese Revolution. The story became well-known by the movie of the same title by Zhang Yimou, which became an international success.

 

#25 Ming Dynasty in 1566 (大明王朝1566)

Year: 2007
Episodes: 46
Genre: Historical drama
Directed by: Zhang Li (张黎)
Available with English subtitles on Youtube

Noteworthy: “Scoring a 9.7 on Douban, rated by 55,000 users”

Ming Dynasty in 1566 (Dàmíng wángcháo), starring Chinese actor Chen Baoguo (陈宝国), is a Chinese television series based on historical events during the reign of the Jiajing Emperor (1507-1567) of the Ming dynasty. It was first broadcast on Hunan TV in China in 2007.

On Douban, more than 55000 people have reviewed this movie at time of writing, coming up with a score of 9.7, one of the highest in this list. The drama was also broadcasted in other countries, such as South Korea.

 

#26 Dwelling Narrowness (蜗居)

Year: 2009
Episodes: 35
Genre: Urban Drama
Directed by: Teng Huatao (滕华涛)
Watch on Youtube here.

Noteworthy: “Focusing on China’s urban real estate bubble”

Also known as Snail House, this TV drama was all the rage back in 2009 for its focus on the crazy housing market in urban China and the lives of ordinary Chinese who are struggling to survive in the city while living in small spaces. Dwelling Narrowness, based on a novel by the same name, tells the story of two sisters with very different lifestyles who are looking to find a home in Shanghai (or actually, the fictional city of Jiangzhou, that basically represents Shanghai), and improve their quality of life, each in their own way.

The real estate bubble is a major theme throughout these series, and the TV drama was much-discussed within the frame of Chinese urban dwellers becoming “house slaves” (房奴). In the year of its broadcast, Wall Street Journal featured an article dedicated to the series and the discussions it triggered online.

 

#27 The Red (红色)

Year: 2014
Episodes: 48
Genre: War drama
Directed by Yang Lei (杨磊)

Noteworthy: “Patriotism as its key theme”

War drama The Red (Hóngsè) receives a 9.2 on Sogou, showing its success over the last four years.

Edward Zhang (Zhang Luyi 张鲁一) stars in this drama as an ordinary worker in Shanghai who gets caught up in underground circles at the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War, and unexpectedly becomes part of a decisive moment in Chinese modern history. Perhaps unsurprinsginly, ‘Patriotism’ is a key theme throughout The Red.

 

#28 Moral Peanuts – Final Season (毛骗 终结篇)

Year: 2015
Episodes: 10 (in this season)
Genre: Crime/Suspense
Directed by: Li Hongchou (李洪绸)
Watch on Youtube here.

Noteworthy: “A gang of friends who con people out of their money”

Rated with a 9.6 on Sogou and a 9.6 by more than 26,000 people on Douban, this TV drama has already become somewhat of a classic in the few years since its airing.

Moral Peanuts is a multiple season series (started in 2010), that follows a gang of five young friends who live together and earn their living in a fraudulent way. The series is characterized by its cliffhanger endings and its ‘grey’ portrayals of its characters.

 

#29 In the Name of the People (人民的名义)

Year: 2017
Episodes: 55
Genre: Corruption drama
Directed by: Li Lu
Available with English subtitles here.

Noteworthy: “The Chinese ‘House of Cards'”

In the Name of the People is a 2017 highly popular Chinese TV drama series based on the web novel of the same name by Zhou Meisen (周梅森). Its plot revolves around a prosecutor’s efforts to unearth corruption in a present-day fictional Chinese city by the name of Jingzhou.

In 2017, this TV drama became a true craze on Chinese social media and received a lot of coverage in (international) media for being comparable to the American political drama House of Cards. The BBC described it as “the latest piece of propaganda aimed at portraying the government’s victory in its anti-corruption campaign.”

 

#30 White Deer Plain (白鹿原)

Year: 2017
Genre: Contemporary historical drama
Episodes: 85
Directed by: Liu Jin (刘进)
WAtch with English subs at New Asian TV here.

Noteworthy: “The epic TV drama took nearly 17 years to prepare and produce “

This TV drama has consistently been ranking number one in Baidu’s and Weibo’s popular drama charts last year, and is now ranked with an 8.8 score on sites such as Douban. Although it is somewhat tricky to call such a present-day drama a ‘classic’, we’ll take the chance.

White Deer Plain is based on the award-winning Chinese literary classic by Chen Zhongshi (陈忠实) from 1993. The preparation and production of this series reportedly took a staggering 17 years and a budget of 230 million yuan (US$33.39 million).

The success of the novel this TV drama is based on, has previously been compared to that of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. White Deer Plain follows the stories of people from several generations living on the ‘White Deer Plain,’ or North China Plain in Shaanxi province, during the first half of the 20th century. This tumultuous period sees the Republican Period, the Japanese invasion, and the early days of the People’s Republic of China. The series is great in providing insights into how people used to live, from dress to daily life matter. The scenery and sets are beautiful.

 

Some Book Recommendations Based on This List:

 

* Chinese Television in the Twenty-First Century: Entertaining the Nation (Routledge Contemporary China Series Book 121)

* Staging Corruption: Chinese Television and Politics (Contemporary Chinese Studies)

* Television in Post-Reform China: Serial Dramas, Confucian Leadership and the Global Television Market (Routledge Media, Culture and Social Change in Asia)

* TV Drama in China (TransAsia: Screen Cultures)

* Media in China: Consumption, Content and Crisis

 
Want to know more? Check out our various Top 10s of popular Chinese TV Dramas from 2013 to present here.
 

By Manya Koetse

*1(We kindly ask not to reproduce this list without permission – please link back if referring to it).

References

Bai, Ruoyun. 2007. “TV Dramas in China – Implications of the Globalization.” In Manfred Kops and Stefan Ollig (eds), Internationalization of the Chinese TV sector, 75-99. Berlin: LIT Verlag.

Bai, Ruoyun. 2014. Staging Corruption: Chinese Television and Politics. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.

Barmé, Geremie. 2012. “Red Allure and the Crimson Blindfold.” China Perspectives, 2012/2, 29-40.

Di, Miao. 2008. “A Brief History of Chinese Situation Comedies.” In Ruoyun Bai, Ying Zhu, Michael Keane (eds), TV Drama in China, 117-129. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.

Hong, Junhao. 2007. “The Historical Development of Program Exchange in the TV Sector.” In Manfred Kops and Stefan Ollig (eds), Internationalization of the Chinese TV sector, 25-40. Berlin: LIT Verlag.

–. 2007b. “From Three Kingdoms the Novel to Three Kingdoms the Television Series: Gains, Losses, and Implications.” In Kimberly Besio and Constantine Tung (eds), Three Kingdoms and Chinese Culture, 125-143. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Zhu, Ying. 2008. “Yongzheng Dynasty and Totalitarian Nostalgia.” In Bai R, Keane M, Zhu Y. (eds), TV Drama in China, 21-33. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press; 2008

Wang, Min and Arvind Singhal. 1992. “Kewang, A Chinese Television Soap Opera With A Message.” Gazette 49: 177-192.


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©2018 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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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Ben

    November 16, 2018 at 10:33 am

    In the picture for “#18 Heaven’s Above (苍天在上)”, the character seems to be holding a smartphone – possibly an iPhone given what looks to be an apple on the back side. That would be anachronistic for a 1995 series I think?

    • Admin

      November 16, 2018 at 10:41 am

      Well spotted, Ben! You’re right! That was an image from a modern remake mini-series of Heaven’s Above (苍天在上), not the 1995 version. We’ve now replaced with an image from the original show. Thanks for the heads up 🙂

  2. autraka

    November 22, 2018 at 6:59 am

    Wish you included 武林外传、还珠格格 and more TV dramas based on 金庸‘s novels.

  3. Brown

    January 2, 2019 at 10:58 am

    Chinese TVs set in Qing Dynasty are an amazing series for me. I love the Story of Yanxi Palace especially. I have found the top 10 related Qing Dynasty TVs from here
    https://chinausual.com/top-10-chinese-tv-series-set-in-qing-dynasty/

  4. Jason

    February 23, 2019 at 9:57 am

    Actually “White Deer Plain” 白鹿原 is in Shaanxi(陕西). Not Shanxi(山西)。

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China Arts & Entertainment

25 ‘Tainted Celebrities’: What Happens When Chinese Entertainers Get Canceled?

What happens after Chinese celebrities become tainted by scandal? A list of 25 ‘tainted celebrities’ in China.

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What happens when Chinese celebrities get tainted by scandal? This is a list of 25 notable Chinese celebrities who got caught up in controversy. What did they do, and where are they now? An overview by What’s on Weibo.

This year seems to be a peak year to see China’s entertainment stars falling from the sky. After various celebrity scandals occurred earlier in 2021, a major ‘entertainment circles earthquake’ took place in late August.

Famous actresses Zhao Wei (赵薇) and Zheng Shuang (郑爽), along with Chinese music producer and TV host Gao Xiaosong (高晓松), saw their names and work wiped from various online channels. Online fan groups and ‘super topics’ dedicated to these celebrities, as well as others, were taken offline.

China’s entertainment circles have not seen so many scandals and investigations since 2014, when there were so many Chinese celebrities in prison that netizens spoofed the famous 1987 action movie Prison on Fire (监狱风云) and jokingly made it feature imprisoned stars with the main lead for actor Huang Haibo (黄海波).

A 2014 meme featuring Chinese celebrities in prison.

The recent blow to Chinese entertainment culture is partly related to a larger “clean up” campaign (清朗专项行动) targeting celebrities and online fan communities.

Many Chinese celebrities from the entertainment industry were ‘canceled’ over the past years over their illegal behavior and activities. But not all celebrity scandals are related to top-down measures; sometimes there are those whose reputation becomes irreversibly damaged over cheating, sex scandals, inappropriate (leaked) online messages, or by them getting caught up in controversial and sensitive historical or political issues.

Sometimes the ‘trial’ is by the public, other times it’s by authorities, but it always ends up being a trial by media.

We have compiled a top 25 list of Chinese celebrities in the show business who suffered a public fall from grace with updates on where they are now, perhaps giving an idea of what the future might look like for those Chinese stars who have recently been ‘blacklisted.’

This list only includes those celebrities whose scandals played out online in the age of social media. It is a top 25 of ‘tainted celebrities’ within mainland China’s entertainment industry, listed in chronological order of when their reputation suffered a blow.

 
 

#1 Edison Chen 陈冠希

 

Edison Chen is a Canadian-born Hong Kong actor, singer, and entrepreneur whose 2008 sex photo scandal (“艳照门”) shook Chinese entertainment circles. Although this scandal mostly relates to the Hong Kong entertainment industry, we’ve still added it to this list since it is also widely known in mainland China.

The scandal erupted when intimate and private photos started circulating on the internet, showing the actor with various women, including actresses Gillian Chung, Bobo Chan, Rachel Ngan, and Cecilia Cheung. The photos were, among others, disseminated on the Chinese internet forum Tianya, where they received over twenty million views.

The photos were stolen from Chen’s computer and illegally uploaded online. Over eight people were arrested in relation to this case (see wiki page here). In February of 2008, Chen announced that he would step away from the Hong Kong entertainment industry.

Where is he now?

By now, Edison Chen has become a family man. In 2017, he married Chinese supermodel Qin Shupei and they have a kid together.

Chen is a brand ambassador for Ralph Lauren, and together with his family he also participated in the brand’s “Family is who you love” campaign.

Chen has been successful in business – he is the founder of the streetwear label CLOT. He also has a large following on Weibo of over 29,5 million fans (@edc陳冠希).

Nevertheless, the actor can’t seem to shake off scandal. In June of 2021, he was caught in scandal again when older posts of a Chinese woman surfaced on Weibo in which she accused the actor of trying to seduce her twice between November 2016 and January 2017.

 
 

#2 Man Wenjun 满文军

 

The drugs scandal involving famous pop star Man Wenjun (满文军, 1969) became major news in China in May of 2009 when the celebrity was busted with heroin during a raid in the Beijing Coco Banana nightclub, where he was celebrating his wife’s 40th birthday in a VIP room.

Ma is most famous for songs such as I Understand You (懂你) and Longing for My Hometown (望乡). He was also one of the singers who sang the theme song Beijing Welcomes You (北京欢迎你) for the 2008 Olympics.

The singer and his wife were detained, along with more than ten other people who all tested positive for drug use. At the time, China.org reported that an unnamed drug dealer told media that the celebrity couple were frequent drug users and bought 2.5 grams of heroin from him.

Man eventually only served twenty days in prison. His wife, however, got a much longer sentence. Li Li (李俐) – Man’s second wife after a previous divorce – later confessed to giving ecstasy tablets to two people that evening. She received a one-year prison sentence and a 2,000 yuan penalty.

The singer was criticized for testifying against his own wife. When she heard her husband’s testimony against her (alleging that she was the one doing drugs), she allegedly called her husband ‘inhumane.’

The incident sparked online discussion about the moral standards of celebrities, and China.org published a list of celebrities who previously also got caught up in drug-related scandals.

Man’s arrest would just be the beginning of an even longer list of celebrities getting caught with drugs in the years after.

Where is he now?

Unsurprisingly, Man Wenjun and Li Li are now divorced.

The drugs scandal meant a major blow to Man’s reputation, and despite still releasing new music and occasional performances, he would never again regain the success he once had. It is rumored that Man now runs his own music training institution, where he is a music teacher.

 
 

#3 Li Daimo 李代沫

 

Li Daimo (李代沫, 1988), is a Chinese singer who rose to fame in 2012 during the first season of The Voice of China (中国好声音).

In July 2013, Li came out as being gay. Many netizens applauded Li for coming out, and he gained overwhelming support from fans and followers.

In March of 2014, however, Li’s reputation suffered when he was arrested by Beijing police due to drug possession. Li was found guilty and was sentenced to a fine and nine months in prison.

Where is he now?

After spending seven months behind bars, Li was released from prison in December of 2014. His early release was because of good behavior.

After being released from prison, Li resumed his music career. In 2015, he launched a single titled “Thank You” (谢谢你). Li is still active on Weibo (@李代沫Demon), where he has over a million followers.

Although Li’s tainted past is still often mentioned on Weibo, he is one of the few artists who seems to have made some sort of a comeback to the entertainment industry after such a major controversy, although he will probably never go back to the success he once had. During some live streams Li has done, the singer is often scolded by netizens.

 
 

#4 Huang Haibo 黄海波

 

Huang Haibo (黄海波, 1976) is a renowned award-winning Chinese actor who suffered a public fall from grace in 2014 when he was caught soliciting a prostitute in a Beijing hotel. The then-39-year-old was previously known as China’s national “son-in-law” for often playing the nice guy and ideal husband in Chinese productions.

In May of 2014, Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau announced that Huang was arrested on suspicion of hiring prostitutes, and then he was sentenced to 15 days in prison, followed by a six months sentence of “custody and reeducation.”

After the scandal made headlines, Huang was no longer offered new roles and his TV and film career in mainland China came to an abrupt end.

Although Huang definitely was shut out from the entertainment industry due to this affair, he was not necessarily ‘canceled’ by the public. Many people sided with him since they felt he was trapped or even purposely framed – someone must have tipped off the police in order for them to catch him in the act at the Beijing hotel.

Where is he now?

In 2015, just a year after the scandal made headlines, Huang announced he and his partner were expecting a baby. The actor has since moved to the United States.

His partner is Chinese actress Qu Shanshan (曲栅栅), who is still working.

Huang still has over six million followers on his Weibo account. He has not appeared in any Chinese productions since his scandal.

 
 

#5 Zhang Mo 张默

 

Zhang Mo (张默, 1982) was a famous actor in Chinese TV dramas and films who is especially well-known for his leading role in Let the Bullets Fly. He is also the son of famous actor and producer Zhang Guoli (张国立).

In July of 2014, the actor was arrested in Beijing for illegal drug use. He was sentenced to six months in prison and was fined 5,000 yuan ($800) for drug use and providing others with a venue for drug use. The scandal went viral on Chinese social media, with many feeling sorry for father Zhang Guoli having to deal with such a troubled son.

It was not the first time for the actor to be caught up in controversy, and he became known as a rebel. He was involved in another drug-related incident in 2012. Years before, his ex-girlfriend Tong Yao accused Zhang Mo of assaulting her.

Where is he now?

Since his past controversies, Zhang Mo has moved on to work behind the screens. Zhang was photographed on a set together with his father Zhang Guoli in March of 2021.

It is reported that besides working behind the scenes (he allegedly is a senior executive), Zhang Mo is also a major shareholder of at least two film and television companies.

 
 

#6 Kai Ko / Ke Zhendong 柯震东

 

Although the actor and singer Ko Chentung (柯震东 Ke Zhendong, 1991) – also known as ‘Kai Ko’ – is from Taiwan, he was also very popular in mainland China, which is also where his career-changing scandal took place.

The actor and singer was arrested for possession of drugs in Beijing on August 14 of 2014 together with Jaycee Chan, who is also on this list. Shortly after his arrest, Kai Ko’s manager confirmed the actor would be released on August 28th after a detainment of 14 days. He also stated that Kai Ko felt “very ashamed” of himself.

Although the actor was denounced on social media, there were also many fans who showed their support and even some who vowed to use drugs in support of Ko if he would disappear from the entertainment industry.

The arrest of Ko Chentung over drugs abuse was especially controversial because Ko previously appeared in an anti-drug advertisement in 2012, in which he clearly stated: “I don’t do drugs!”

Where is he now?

After his detainment, Ko delivered a tearful apology on state broadcaster CCTV before returning to Taiwan. The actor was cut from two movies and brand partnerships and upcoming show engagements were all canceled.

Although Ko has barely done any large projects as an actor or singer over the past eight years, he returned to the big screen in 2021 in the film Moneyboys.

 
 

#7 Fang Zuming (Jaycee Chan) 房祖名

 

Actor and singer Jaycee Chan (房祖名, 1982), the son of the super famous Jackie Chan, was among several people who were arrested during an August 2014 drug bust at his apartment in Beijing.

Investigators found 100 grams of marijuana in his home, and the actor also tested positive for marijuana use. He was sentenced to six months in prison for the possession and distribution of marijuana, and for accommodating drug users at his home.

Before his arrest, Jaycee worked on the film Monk Comes Down the Mountain (道士下山), but his role was not credited due to the drugs scandal. He was also dropped by the brand he previously worked with, including Adidas, Nivea, KFC, and Chevrolet.

Jaycee’s drug use and prison sentence were already bad enough, but what made matters worse is that his father Jackie was previously appointed as goodwill Ambassador for the China National Anti-Drug Committee.

Where is he now?

Although Jaycee hinted at a comeback to China’s entertainment industry in a public speech he gave after his release from prison, he has never been able to get back the success he had before his arrest. He is now mostly working behind the scenes, and has also become a producer.

With a dad like Jackie Chan, Jaycee hardly has to worry about his financial situation though. Earlier this year, the fallen celebrity was spotted smoking cigars and driving a Mercedes Benz car.

Although he has a Weibo account with 7,4 million followers, Jaycee’s account page is empty.

 
 

#8 Yin Xiangjie 尹相杰

 

Yin Xiangjie (尹相杰, 1969) is a Chinese singer, host, and actor, who rose to fame after his performance at the Beijing TV Lantern Festival in 1994. He became very popular afterward and was a regular guest at the Spring Festival Gala.

In December of 2015, the singer was arrested at his home for possessing and consuming illegal drugs. Authorities found over 10 grams of drugs at his residence, including crystal methamphetamine. Yin Xiangjie was sentenced to seven months in prison.

With China having a zero-tolerance attitude to drugs, any drug-related scandal would already be a major blow to the reputation of Chinese celebrities. In the case of Yin, the scandal had an ever deeper effect because the singer was previously appointed as an ambassador in an anti-drug campaign of 2007.

Where is he now?

Yin’s first arrest, unfortunately, was not his last. The singer was arrested again in November of 2015, also in relation to drugs, just shortly after he was released from prison.

According to the latest reports, Yun still appears in some obscure advertisements in order to generate an income. But Yin’s once so successful career in China’s entertainment industry seems to be definitely over.

 
 

#9 Le Jia (Tim Le) 乐嘉

 

Le Jia (乐嘉, 1975) is a Chinese psychology expert and a published author, who became a famous TV host and entertainer in mainland China, especially after he started participating in the popular TV dating show If You Are The One (非诚勿扰) in 2010.

Le Jia is the founder of the Four-colors Personality Analysis (FPA) and the China Personality Colors Research Center, labeling himself as the first person in China to use colors to identify personality types – a topic about which he published multiple best-selling books.

Le’s 2015 participation in the TV show Super Speaker (超级演说家) caused controversy when Le drank baijiu (liquor) during the recording on stage and then got wildly drunk, causing him to act improperly and scold the other hosts on the show (videos of the show are still lingering online). Guests of the show left the stage, and the recording was halted.

The incident was a major blow to Le Jia’s reputation and his TV career came to an abrupt stop.

Where is he now?

Because Le Jia career did not fully revolve around China’s entertainment business, the controversy did not necessarily end his professional career; it was just the end of a period in which he became a very popular TV host.

As a psychology expert, Le is still selling books and giving trainings. The 46-year-old is also still involved in the Personality Colors Research Center.

Le Jia is also active on Weibo, where he has a following of 43 million (!) fans (@乐嘉).

 
 

#10 Fu Yiwei 傅艺伟

 

Fu Yiwei (傅艺伟, 1964) is an award-winning Chinese actress known for, among others, her role as Su Daiji in the TV series The Investiture of the Gods (封神榜). She was married (and divorced) two times, and has a son.

Fu made headlines in February of 2016 when Beijing police reported the actress was arrested for using drugs and allowing two others to use drugs in her apartment in Liangmahe, Beijing.

It was previously already rumored the actress was using drugs due to her behavior and facial expression when she appeared in talk shows years before.

The actress was sentenced to prison was released in April of 2016, after which she issued a public apology on Weibo.

Where is she now?

Fu has not gone back to the entertainment industry as a major actress after her drugs scandal. According to 2021 reports, Fu Yiwei lives in a luxurious house located in the center of Beijing.

She is still active on Weibo (@演员傅艺伟), where she occasionally posts an update.

 
 

#11 Ma Rong 马蓉

 

The marriage crisis between Chinese film star Wang Baoqiang (王宝强) and Chinese actress Ma Rong (马蓉) became the number one trending topic on Weibo on August 14 in 2016 when Wang published a message on his official Weibo account that he was divorcing his wife Ma Rong and firing his agent Song Zhe (宋喆), accusing the two of having secret affair.

Wang Baoqiang vs Ma Rong became the divorce of the decade, mainly because the story unfolded itself on Weibo. Online debates were fuelled by the public posts and comments published online by both Wang Baoqiang and Ma Rong.

Ma Rong became the main target of online vitriol, as the majority of Weibo’s netizens sided with the popular actor Wang Baoqiang, saying that Ma Rong was a cheater who only married Wang for his money.

In December of 2018, Ma Rong accused her ex-husband of attacking her, and dramatic photos of a seemingly injured Ma Rong soon spread on social media. Ma Rong spoke to reporters while lying in her (hospital) bed, tearfully speaking about Wang abusing her. Later on, however, security footage from surveillance cameras at Wang’s house leaked online and showed how it was Ma who came to Wang’s house, carrying scissors with her to intimidate Wang’s family. The actress was then accused of staging the entire incident.

In the midst of all controversy, Ma Rong became one of China’s “most-hated” celebrities.

Where is she now?

Ma Rong is still often being scolded on Chinese social media, and her name will probably be tarnished for a long time. Nevertheless, the actress is occasionally still posting on her Weibo account and Xiaohongshu, and whenever she is spotted out in public, she looks well-dressed and always wears expensive clothing and jewelry.

 
 

#12 Li Xiaolu 李小璐

 

Li Xiaolu (李小璐, 1982), also known as Jacqueline Li, is a Chinese actress and singer who was once the youngest actress to win the Golden Horse Award for Best Leading Actress in Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl (天浴). In 2012, Li married the famous Chinese actor Jia Nailiang (贾乃亮), with whom she had a baby shortly after.

In late 2017, Li got into a huge scandal when she was photographed spending the night at the home of The Rap of China rapper PG One. Since Li was still married at the time, social media blew up over this ‘cheating gate’ (出轨门), especially because Jia Nailiang was asked on live-stream where his wife was and he allegedly replied: “Getting her hair done!”

In October of 2019, older videos leaked online that showed Li and PG One kissing and behaving like a couple. A month later, Jia and Li announced they were getting divorced.

The extramarital affair meant a major blow to Li’s reputation as she was now being ‘canceled’ by the public and labeled as a “bad record performer” (劣迹艺人).

Where is she now?

Li Xiaolu still has her Weibo account with over 44 million followers. She often posts content related to her 8-year-old daughter, and she also does sponsored content and livestreams.

Although Li still has her fans and is probably doing well with selling products online, her name still often comes up in a negative way, and controversy seems to follow her to this day – many netizens think the actress is unethical for her past affair and for the way she dresses and raises her daughter.

 
 

#13 Chen Yufan 陈羽凡

 

Chen Yufan (陈羽凡, 1975) is a Chinese actor and singer-songwriter and half of the popular pop duo Yu Quan (羽泉). In 2018, Chen became a ‘tainted celebrity’ when Beijing authorities announced on Weibo that the artist had been arrested for drug possession after they had received tips from the public.

As reported by SupChina at the time, the singer at home joined by another person when the police caught him with 7.96 grams of crystal meth and 2.14 grams of marijuana. Both Chen and the 25-year-old female he was with tested positive for illegal drugs.

Chen was detained, labeled a “drug addict,” and was ordered to pay regular visits to a local rehab center for three years.

Later, Chen’s musical partner and friend of twenty years, Hu Haiquan (胡海泉) posted on Weibo that he was hurt by Chen’s actions, which also affected their fans. Their upcoming concert was canceled and the duo band, which was established in 1998, was dissolved.

Where is he now?

Although Chen still has his Weibo account, he barely uses it. The singer has withdrawn from the public eye.

Chen divorced his ex-wife Bai Baihe (白百何) in 2015, but the two are still spotted together since they have a child together. Chen now has a new girlfriend, the much younger He Shizhen (何时珍). Prior to his drugs scandal, Chen’s love life was also a trending topic on Chinese social media, as Chen and Bai only disclosed their divorce in 2017 after rumors of cheating surfaced online.

Whenever Chen is seen in public somewhere, netizens comment on his appearance; Chen seems to have gained weight and often looks a bit sloppy.

Chen is a shareholder in various companies and is now working behind the scenes in the music industry. According to the latest articles, Chen has also opened his own recording studio.

 
 

#14 Fan Bingbing 范冰冰

 

Fan Bingbing, one of the most renowned and highest-paid actresses in China, found herself at the center of a social media storm in late May of 2018.

The actress allegedly received a total payment of 60 million yuan ($9.3 million) for just four days of work on the film Cell Phone 2, of which she supposedly only declared 10 million ($1.56 million) to authorities.

The tax scandal first came to light when Chinese TV host Cui Yongyuan (崔永元) leaked two different contracts on social media; the one that allegedly showed that the actress was paid a total of 10 million RMB for her work, with another showing payment of 50 million RMB for the exact same work. These types of contracts are called yin-yang contracts (阴阳合同), an illegal practice to avoid paying taxes.

What followed after the scandal was months of silence and rumors. The actress was last seen in public on July 1st, and social media rumors alleged the actress might have left the country and that she was banned from acting for three years. At one point it was even rumored that the actress had been arrested.

Where is she now?

In October of 2018, Chinese state media reported that Fan Bingbing had been ordered to pay taxes and fines worth hundreds of millions of yuan over tax evasion and that the actress would not be held criminally liable if she would pay the penalty in time.

That same day, Fan came out with a public apology. Her Weibo account stayed up.

The actress launched her own beauty brand, Fan Beauty Secret (Weibo), in 2019. She has not completely won back the favor of Chinese netizens, who recently slammed her for posting “staged” photos of herself ‘working’ on her beauty product formulas in a lab.

Despite all controversy, Fan has done remarkably well in staying in the spotlight, unlike most others in this list. She still has over 64 million fans on her Weibo account and she is active as a brand ambassador for various companies, including the Be Strong formula (花冠贝智康) and the Swedish Daniel Wellington.

 
 

#15 Wu Xiubo 吴秀波

 

Beijing-born actor and musician Wu Xiubo (吴秀波, 1968) is famous for his role in many TV dramas and movies, including the television series Before the Dawn and the hit film Finding Mr. Right (北京遇上西雅图). His reputation suffered a serious blow when the actor, who has been married since 2002 and is the father of two children, was rumored to have been involved in various extra-marital affairs.

The scandal started in September 2018, when Chinese actress Chen Yulin (陈昱霖), also known as Ruby Chen, posted the history of her alleged seven-year relationship with the married actor on social media. She described the relationship as being one where Wu was very controlling of her. She also alleged that she received messages from other women, in 2013 and in 2017, who were also sexually involved with Wu.

In January of 2019, Chen’s parents published a statement on social media in which they claimed their daughter was asked to deny the allegations she had made against Wu in return for money. After Wu’s legal team and Chen had made an arrangement, Chen returned to mainland China to settle the matter. The moment she landed at Beijing airport in November of 2018, she was arrested by local Beijing police for blackmailing Wu.

Chen, who was detained since November of 2018, was eventually sentenced to three years in prison and she was released in 2021.

Although Chen was found guilty, Wu Xiubo’s reputation was ruined. Many people felt that how he dealt with Chen was wrong and that he was evil for having extramarital affairs in the first place.

Following the controversies, Wu Xiubo was blocked by major Chinese television stations and some of the programs he appeared in were no longer aired. Wu would originally host the 2019 Spring Gala, but his role was canceled. The romantic drama film Someone Like It Hot 2., that was scheduled to release in 2019, was also canceled and many variety shows that featured Wu were taken down or reshot.

Where is he now?

Since the scandal made headlines, Wu rarely makes public appearances. In late 2019, Wu did post a video message to support arts students preparing for the national college entrance exam. According to Global Times, many did not appreciate his temporary ‘comeback,’ with some bloggers calling him ‘pathetic.’

He is still on Weibo (@吴秀波), where he has 8,5 million followers, but he barely posts updates. On a ‘super topic’ fan page that is dedicated to the actor, fans still post photos of him every day.

There are ongoing rumors about the financial difficulties the actor is facing. In 2020, he sold his mansion in San Marino, California, at a loss. The actor is a shareholder in multiple companies and he is still married to his wife. A comeback to China’s entertainment industry seems unlikely for now.

 
 

#16 Zhai Tianlin 翟天临

 

Zhai Tianlin (翟天临, 1987)- also known as Ronald Zhai – is a well-known actor in China for his work in various films and TV dramas. He starred in, among others, the acclaimed series White Deer Plain (白鹿原).

In 2019, the actor got caught up in controversy over alleged academic misconduct. The actor had been admitted to the Beijing Film Academy in 2014 as a doctoral candidate in Film Science and received his PhD in June 2018. In 2019, the actor shared his joy over being accepted into Peking University for postdoctoral research.

Zhai’s new journey, however, led to online investigations into his previous academic works. As reported by BBC at the time, the South China Morning Post spotted discrepancies in Zhai’s submissions and widespread doubts over Zhai’s academic achievements began to circulate online.

One of Zhai’s essays did not contain any citations, and another showed many similarities with an article previously published in 2006. Some netizens started comparing the essays and found that 40% of Zhai’s essay was copied.

Doubts about Zhai’s academic performance were already raised when, during a live video session, Zhai showed ignorance of the CNKI (China National Knowledge Infrastructure), a digital library that most scholars are usually using, or at least are aware of.

In light of the online controversy, Beijing Film Academy set up an investigation process, which eventually led to Zhai’s PhD being revoked in February of 2019 due to plagiarism. The incident meant the end of Zhai’s academic career and tarnished his reputation.

Where is he now?

Zhai has not made headlines since his academic plagiarism controversy, which also ended his flourishing career in the entertainment industry. He still has over 10 million followers on his Weibo account (@翟天临), but hasn’t participated in any major works since the incident.

According to some reports from 2021, Zhai has started his own acting training classes, suggesting his future career will mainly take place behind the scenes.

 
 

#17 Zhao Lixin 赵立新

 

The 2019 case of Zhao Lixin (赵立新, 1968) is probably the most similar in context to that of Zhang Zhehan, who got caught up in controversy in August of 2021 and is also on this list.

The Weibo account of Zhao Lixin was closed after the Chinese-Swedish actor made controversial comments on the Second Sino-Japanese War. Zhao Lixin was mainly known for his roles in TV dramas such as The Legend of Mi Yue, Memoirs In China, and In the Silence.

On April 2nd of 2019, the actor, who had more than 7 million followers, posted a message on his social media account that questioned why the Japanese military did not pillage and destroy the Beijing Palace Museum during the Second Sino-Japanese War:

The Japanese occupied Beijing for eight years. Why didn’t they steal relics from the Palace Museum and burn it down [during that time]? Is this in line with the nature of an invader?

The actor also commented on the Nanjing Massacre of 1937, suggesting that it was a consequence of Chinese resistance to the Japanese invasion.

His comments caused a social media storm with people accusing the actor of defending the Japanese. A lengthy apology by Zhao did not help. Besides being blocked from Weibo, he was also criticized and boycotted by state media and his most recent TV production was canceled.

Where is he now?

It has been over two years since Zhao was basically banned and lost the opportunity to do movies and TV dramas. Although it was initially rumored that the actor had been deported (he has Swedish nationality), he actually kept a low profile and made new plans.

The actor actually performs at a ‘live theater bar’ in Beijing, where people can have drinks and food while enjoying drama performances by professional actors. According to the latest reviews, the bar is always fully booked and there are raving reviews.

Other sources claim the artist also gives theater workshops for aspiring actors. The workshops, that are not cheap, are apparently a success.

Although Zhao has not returned to Weibo, there is a ‘super topic’ fan club dedicated to him on the platform.

 
 

#18 Tong Zhuo 仝卓

 

Tong Zhuo (仝卓, 1994) is a Chinese singer, actor, and TV host from Shanxi who became a trending topic in June of 2020 when it was discovered he had committed fraud during the gaokao, the national college entrance exam.

The scandal first broke when Tong was chatting with fans during a live stream. While giggling, he admitted that he had forged his identity for the gaokao: “We used a lot of so-called guanxi (connections) and then I became a fresh high school graduate,” said Tong, 26, laughing with one hand over his mouth.

Tong Zhuo said he had initially failed his college entrance exam in 2012. In order to be able to get into a top art school that only accepts recent high school graduates, he changed his personal information when he participated in the gaokao the next year in 2013 and faked being a fresh graduate.

Tong’s own confession led to an investigation by the Shanxi provincial education department. Another investigation also looked into the role of his stepfather Tong Tianfeng, a deputy secretary-general in Linfen city.

Tong Zhuo was eventually stripped of his graduation certificate by the Central Academy of Drama. His stepfather Tong Tianfeng was removed from office, and three education officials were put under police custody for allegedly forging documents.

Where is he now?

Tong Zhuo is still very active on his social media, posting selfies and vlogs. He also still performs, although he has not participated in any big media performances since the scandal.

 
 

#19 Zheng Shuang 郑爽

 

Zheng Shuang (郑爽, 1991) became one of the biggest trending topics of 2021 when the Chinese actress got caught up in a surrogacy scandal. Zheng rose to fame when she starred in a popular TV series in 2009 (Meteor Shower 一起来看流星雨). She became an award-winning actress and was chosen as one of the most bankable young actresses of the post-90s generation. On her Weibo account, she had over 12.4 million followers.

The scandal came to light when it appeared that Zheng’s had separated from her partner Zhang Heng (张恒). The former couple had two children in the US through a surrogacy arrangement, but Zheng Shuang allegedly refused to have them because she and Zhang had broken up – even though her name was on their birth certificate.

The situation, which was soon dubbed ‘Surrogacy Gate’ (‘代孕门’), left Zhang Heng stranded in the United States with the two babies. He claimed he was unable to bring them back to China with him since Zheng did not cooperate with the necessary legal procedures.

In light of the controversy, Italian fashion brand PRADA fired Zheng as their brand ambassador, and other companies, including Lola Rose and Chioture, also ended their partnership contracts with the actress.

Zheng’s professional career suffered a major blow when Huading Awards announced it would revoke Zheng’s honorary titles, including former awards for best actress and favorite TV star. The celebrity was also boycotted by China’s State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television.

Where is she now?

Zheng Shuang is still very much caught up in this scandal, and she might not leave it behind her any time soon.

In late July of 2021, her ex-partner posted a lengthy and angry blog on his Weibo where he aired the dirty laundry regarding their legal struggles and personal conflicts. This post came after Zheng herself broke her six-month social media silence to apologize for her surrogacy scandal.

Another apology followed in August of 2021, on the same day when it became known the actress had to pay a $46 million fine for tax fraud. This all happened during the “August 26/27 Chinese celebrity earthquake.” Zheng Shuang also saw her online fan circles removed, and several TV dramas Zheng acted in were removed from major video platforms.

Zheng currently has court-ordered visits with her children in the US (her ex-partner has custody). According to Today Online, Zheng has officially moved to America and is not doing well financially.

In social media posts that seem to have been removed later on, Zheng claims that her family’s bank accounts have been blocked and that she has no income since she is not allowed to work in the US. She wrote:

“If it makes you feel any better, I can tell you that I drink tap water every day to survive, I own a total of five T-shirts and two pairs of jeans, and I have never ordered delivery,” she wrote. “I even need to be frugal when buying sanitary napkins, and toilet paper has to be used sparingly.”

What sets Zheng Shuang apart from some of the other ‘canceled’ celebrities in this list, is that she still has her social media accounts and a loyal fan following. She might lack toilet paper, but she still has 12,3 million followers on her Weibo account.

 
 

#20 Zhang Zhehan 张哲瀚

 

Chinese actor Zhang Zhehan (张哲瀚, 1991) got caught up in controversy in August 2021 when photos of him visiting Japan’s Yasukuni Shrine and attending a wedding at Nogi Shrine went viral on social media. The fact that some of these photos were three years old did not seem to matter: Zhang received serious backlash for being ‘unpatriotic’ and was even accused of being a traitor to his country.

While Nogi Shrine was established to honor General Nogi Maresuke, who led Japan’s military during the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), Yasukuni Shrine is dedicated to the Japanese soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the emperor, including those who committed war crimes in China. It is generally seen as a symbol of Japanese military aggression and as a painful reminder of the numerous atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers in China and other Asian countries.

Although Zhang Zhehan rushed to apologize for his “ignorance” regarding these historically sensitive places and expressed his love for China, it did not settle the social media storm. All the companies that previously worked with the Chinese celebrity, including Coca-Cola, Taobao, and Clinique, soon announced the termination of their partnership.

Zhang was also a brand ambassador for Yanjing’s Xuelu beer. Thousands of beer cans with his face became virtually useless after the controversy. Photos showing the abandoned beer cans were shared online by people at the warehouse, who claimed the beer would be destroyed since companies allegedly had even refused to get them for free.

On August 15, within 48 hours after the controversy erupted, Sina Weibo announced that it would shut down Zhang Zhehan’s personal account, his studio account, and the ‘super topic’ fan page dedicated to him. The Weibo Administration (@微博管理员) wrote: “As a public figure with a large following and many fans, establishing correct historical views and values is the most basic level of professional ethic and the bottom line that must be adhered to – ignorance can never be an excuse.”

That same day, the China Association of Performing Arts also released a notice in which they called on members to boycott the actor for “negatively influencing the mass audience of youths.” The actor was also criticized by the official media.

Where is he now?

As the dust has not settled yet, it is still too early to draw any conclusions on how this controversy has affected Zhang, but it is safe to say that Zhang’s life radically changed within a matter of just a few days. The photos he took at two historically sensitive Japanese shrines meant a potential end to his career – no social media, no brand partnerships, and an industry boycott. Just a year prior, the actor had been given an award for Rising Artist of the Year.

Despite all controversy, Zhang still has a loyal fanbase. Although Zhang no longer has his own social media accounts, some of his fans on Weibo are posting messages wishing him well.

 
 

#21 Kris Wu 吴亦凡

 

The Chinese-Canadian superstar Kris Wu, better known as Wu Yifan (吴亦凡) in China, became a trending topic on Chinese social media in the summer of 2021 after he was accused of grooming underage girls and pressuring women into sex.

The 19-year-old student Meizhu Du (都美竹) was the first to accuse Wu of predatory behavior, with at least 24 more women coming forward claiming the celebrity showed inappropriate behavior and luring young women into sexual relationships.

Although Wu denied all allegations, the superstar was detained on suspicions of rape on July 31st. Weibo’s servers barely seemed to be able to handle the spike in traffic after the news came out, and comments came pouring in.

Shortly after Wu’s detainment, his Weibo account got shut down and more than a dozen firms either cut ties or terminated contracts with him. As the scandal unfolded, various hashtags related to the story received billions of views on Weibo.

Wu was later further erased from Chinese social media; various accounts showing support to the singer were taken offline, and his music was removed from the major Chinese music streaming platforms.

On August 16, Kris Wu was officially arrested.

Where is he now?

At this point, it is still unknown what sentence Kris Wu will face, and whether or not the singer will enter a guilty plea which might speed up the legal procedures.

If the Chinese-Canadian celebrity is convicted, it is probable that he will serve his sentence in China and then be deported to Canada (he holds a Canadian passport). Chinese state media reported that Wu may be sentenced to 10 years to life if all allegations turn out to be true.

Although Kris Wu might face a grim future, it is noteworthy that the star, despite being virtually wiped from social media, still has many loyal fans who would gladly welcome him back.

 
 

#22 Zhao Wei 赵薇

 

On August 26 of 2021, the name and works of one of the country’s most notable actresses, Zhao Wei (赵薇 aka Vicky Zhao, 1976) were removed from Chinese online channels. Searching for Zhao Wei’s name on Chinese video platforms Tencent Video, iQiyi, and Youku suddenly came up with zero results, and her name had vanished from the cast lists of the many films and dramas she featured in.

Zhao Wei’s sudden disappearance from the top entertainment websites sent shockwaves over social media. Zhao Wei was clearly ‘canceled’ by higher authorities, but the exact reason why was still unknown by September 2021 – although there was much speculation on what the reason could be.

By early September, celebrity friends of Zhao had removed photos taken together with the actress, and Baidu Baike, also known as the Chinese Wikipedia, had even erased the name of the actress from the pages of the TV dramas and films she featured in (although she still had her own wiki page at this time).

This was not the first time that Zhao got caught up in controversy, although it was never this bad before. In 2001, the actress wore a mini-dress printed with the old Japanese naval flag during a fashion shoot, triggering major backlash over her perceived lack of sensitivity to historical matters.

Where is she now?

At the time of writing, Chinese netizens are still waiting for answers on what has caused Zhao Wei being erased on Chinese online channels. Some rumors say the actress has fled to France, where she has property, but nothing is confirmed at this time.

Zhao Wei does still have her Weibo account, where she has over 85.6 million followers.

 
 

#23 Qian Feng 钱枫

 

Just a week after Kris Wu was arrested, the popular Chinese television host Qian Feng was accused of rape in August of 2021. Qian is primarily known as the host of “Day Day Up” (天天问上), a popular Chinese talk show broadcast on Hunan Television.

As reported by Sixth Tone, a woman by the name of Xiao wrote on Weibo that the 37-year-old TV host raped her while she was drunk and unconscious. The incident allegedly happened in 2019.

Although Xiao had reported the incident to the police, it did not lead to an arrest due to a lack of evidence. After Xiao’s post went viral, Shanghai authorities issued a statement to explain why the investigations came to an end and that they welcome Xiao to provide new evidence.

Pending investigations, Hunan TV suspended Qian Feng. One Weibo hashtag related to the accusations against Qian received over two billion views (#钱枫被曝性侵#).

Where is he now?

On August 27 of 2021, Qian Feng came out with a statement on his Weibo account (@钱枫oscarqian) in which he indicated that the investigations into the case were already rightfully concluded in 2019 and that he placed his trust in the Chinese legal system.

At the same time, he shared that he had terminated his contract with Hunan TV.

 
 

#24 Henry Huo 霍尊 (Huo Zun)

 

Henry Huo (霍尊, 1990) is a Chinese singer-songwriter and actor who gained nationwide fame after winning the first season of Sing My Song (中国好歌曲). Henry was asked to perform in the CCTV Chinese New Year Eve Gala and was awarded the title ‘2014 Drama King.’

In the summer of 2021, Huo announced his withdrawal from the popular TV show Call Me By Fire after his ex-girlfriend Chen Lu (陈露) publicly accused him of being a serial cheater and leaking WeChat conversation screenshots to prove that he actually disliked the show.

On August 14, Huo issued an online apology for the recent controversy, saying sorry for his misbehavior and the “bad social influence” he had caused.

Besides Huo’s exit from Call Me By Fire, the controversy also led to Huo’s first performance on the show being removed.

During China’s “entertainment circles earthquake” of August 26 and 27 (more here) online fan groups to Huo were shut down, and his Weibo account was temporarily disabled.

Where is he now?

Henry Huo is still on Weibo (@霍尊), where he has over 8.7 million fans, but his account is still disabled.

Huo’s entry in the mainstream online encyclopedia Baike has been altered and now includes the recent controversy. It is not clear at this point if Huo’s withdrawal from China’s entertainment industry is a temporary or a permanent one.

 
 

#25 Gao Xiaosong 高晓松

 

In late August of 2021, the work of the famous musician, TV host and co-founder of Alibaba Music Group Gao Xiaosong (高晓松) was taken offline. Among the erased works are his TV show (Xiaosong Pedia 晓松奇谈, removed from video platforms such as iQiyi) and the books he wrote (no longer available on various e-commerce platforms). There was no official reason given for Gao being canceled like this.

However, the Chinese Historial Research Institute (中国历史研究) published a post on Weibo about Gao, criticizing him for historical nihilism and for “openly attacking and slandering our people’s army” during his talks on his TV show.

Throughout his shows, Gao made various remarks about the Sino-Japanese War, sometimes mentioning views or perspectives that go against the official Chinese narrative. Gao also visited the controversial Yasukuni Shrine and allegedly expressed his sympthathy with those Japanese people visiting the shrine to commemorate their loved ones who died in the war.

Yasukuni shrine is dedicated to the Japanese soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the emperor, including those who committed war crimes in China. It is generally seen as a symbol of Japanese military aggression and as a painful reminder of the numerous atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers in China and other Asian countries. In the article by the Chinese Historical Research Insititute, Gao is accused of “defending Japanese militarism.”

Where is he now?

Just like other celebrities caught up in the recent ‘entertainment circles cleanup’, much is still unclear about why Gao was canceled and what his future will look like. Some rumor that the online erasure of both Gao and Zhao Wei might be connected to their links to the Alibaba Group.

At the time of writing, no official statement was given yet by authorities nor by Gao himself.

By Manya Koetse (@manyapan)

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China Arts & Entertainment

The 8/26 and 8/27 Blow to Chinese Entertainment Circles: Is the Storm Still Coming?

China’s ‘socially responsible’ celebrity culture will lead to the downfall of various stars.

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This month, various Chinese celebrities were investigated, blacklisted, or banned, with an “entertainment circles earthquake” occurring on August 26 and 27, when one of China’s most renowned actresses saw her name and work taken off of online channels. Will this blow lead to a greater storm?

Many things were going on in Chinese entertainment circles on Thursday and Friday, August 26-27.

The name of Chinese top actress Zhao Wei (赵薇) was removed from various online channels, and her fan clubs were shut down (read here).

The actress Zheng Shuang (郑爽) was slapped with a US$46.1 million tax evasion fine (her name was also wiped off various platforms & online fan groups were closed), while her ex-partner Zhang Heng (张恒) also became a target of an investigation. The online fan group of Chinese singer-songwriter Henry Huo (霍尊) was removed. The work of the famous musician (and co-founder of Alibaba Music Group) Gao Xiaosong (高晓松) was also taken offline.

Searching for Zhao Wei or Zheng Shuang gives zero results on streaming site Youku. Screenshot by Whatsonweibo, August 27 2021.

The August 26 and 27 “entertainment circle earthquake” comes after a month in which various celebrity scandals were already dominating the top trending lists on social media.

Chinese-Canadian superstar Wu Yifan (吴亦凡), also known as Kris Wu, was detained over rape allegations. Chinese actor Zhang Zhehan (张哲瀚) was canceled for attending a wedding at a controversial Japanese shrine and also taking pictures at Yasukuni. Popular Hunan TV host Qian Feng (钱枫) was suspended after being accused of rape.

 
A ‘Socially Responsible’ Celebrity Culture
 

One thing that is certain, is that Chinese authorities are targeting celebrities in the entertainment industry and are giving off a strong signal that these influential people cannot get away with immoral or illegal acts.

The idea that celebrities should “set the right example” is not new, and has been emphasized by Chinese state media over the past months.

Earlier in 2021, the China Association of Performing Arts (中国演出行业协会), which is run by China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism, officially released new guidelines for Chinese performers in order to promote the idea that they should abide by rules of ‘social morality,’ stating they could face a permanent ban from their profession if they fail to comply.

In order to further push this idea of a celebrity culture that is ‘socially responsible,’ China’s Cyberspace Administration also issued new guidelines on August 27 to “resolve the problems of chaos” in online fan circles. These measures include banning online popularity rankings of celebrities and regulating companies that work with them.

But there seems to be more to the story.

Zheng Shuang and her ex-partner Zhang Heng made the news earlier this year when they had a nasty breakup and the ‘surrogacy gate’ they were involved in went trending (more here), and Henry Huo got caught up in a recent scandal when his ex-girlfriend accused him of being a serial cheater.

But what about Gao Xiaosong and Zhao Wei? Many people on Weibo are still trying to figure out what these celebrities did that would have put them in this pretty dark ‘naughty corner’ of China’s internet.

 
Connecting the Dots
 

Especially the fact that Zhao Wei – as one of the most famous actresses in China – is under scrutiny has led to dozens of different online rumors as to what might have caused this.

Zhao Wei, also known as Vicky Zhao, has consistently been among the top celebrities on Weibo (85+ million followers). Not only is she one of the most renowned actresses in the country, she is also a major influencer, brand ambassador, and businesswoman.

At this point, there has been no official announcement yet on Zhao Wei’s disappearance from many online video channels.

One recurring rumor is that Wu Yifan, aka Kris Wu, who is currently in custody over rape allegations, might have leaked information to the police. Some sources say he passed on the names of 47 celebrities involved in illegal activities to the police, who are rumored to be in danger of being investigated, blacklisted, or banned. There is no official source to back this up.

Zhao’s connections to e-commerce giant Alibaba keep surfacing in online discussions; people link the current developments to the fallen Hangzhou Party chief Zhou Jiangyong (周江勇), who is currently being investigated by China’s top anti-graft agency. In May of 2018, Zhou Jianyong became party chief in Hangzhou, the home city of Jack Ma’s Ant Group and Alibaba Group Holding.

China Economic Weekly reported that friends and family of Zhou Jiangyong had won in project bidding processes within the areas that Zhou administered.

Zhou previously also set up a company that became a strategic partner of Alibaba Group, Tencent, and Unionpay, and which is partly held by a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ant Financial (蚂蚁金服). As stated by Global Times, the investigation of Zhou has led Chinese media to also look into “the business dealings and questionable economic activities” of Zhou’s family and social circle.

Both Zhao Wei and Gao Xiaosong are linked to the Alibaba Group, and they share a social circle with fallen party chief Zhou. Jack Ma is an ally of Zhou Jiangyong, and is also a (close) friend of Gao Xiaosong and Zhao Wei and her husband.

Zhou Jiangyong and Jack Ma.

Zhao Wei and Jack Ma.

In 2014, Zhao Wei and her husband Huang Youlong became the second-largest shareholder of Alibaba Pictures. It has also been reported that Zhao allegedly used her mother Wei Qiying as a legal representative in 2015 in holding shares in the Ant Group.

Chinese renowned music producer and show host Gao Xiaosong, whose work was also removed from various online channels on the same day as Zhao, is a longtime friend of Jack Ma. He is the co-founder of Alibaba Music Group and previously was the Alibaba Music director.

Gao Xiaosong

While netizens are glued to their social media screens awaiting an official announcement of what is going on with Zhao Wei (and Gao Xiaosong), many are trying to connect the dots and are tying the recent crackdown on Chinese entertainment circles to an ongoing anti-corruption campaign.

There are many Chinese celebrities who are investors and are engaged in many other businesses than show-business alone.

After it became clear during this social media storm that actress Zhao Wei had left a number of the companies she was involved in, a ‘business map‘ compiled by a data firm (眼查APP资料) of some Chinese celebrities and their business connections started trending online. The hashtag related to the image (#一张图看懂娱乐圈的资本局#) had received over 780 million views by August 29.

A map showing Chinese celebrities and their business involvements went trending on Weibo.

Although the map was unhelpful to many (“too many lines!”), it did clarify just how China’s entertainment celebrities have become tangled up with the country’s largest companies. One Weibo user commented: “They all start companies and then become each other’s shareholders.”

Meanwhile, baseless rumors are circulating on Chinese social media that in the middle of this storm, Zhao Wei has already left China for France.

Most commenters think that the latest developments in China’s entertainment social circles show that these influential people caught up in controversy can run, but they can no longer hide. This may just be the beginning of what is yet to come.

Read more: 25 ‘Tainted Celebrities’: What Happens When Chinese Entertainers Get Canceled?

By Manya Koetse (@manyapan)

With contributions by Miranda Barnes

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.

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