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China Arts & Entertainment

Why Zhao Wei? Vicky Zhao’s Name Removed from China’s Online Channels

Recent developments involving Chinese top actress Vicky Zhao (Zhao Wei) are part of a bigger crackdown on China’s entertainment industry.

Manya Koetse



Another earthquake in China’s entertainment circles! This time, the name and works of one of the country’s most notable actresses, Zhao Wei (赵薇, aka Vicky Zhao) are removed from Chinese online channels.

“Sorry, no related videos found.” Searching for Zhao Wei’s name (赵薇/Vicky Zhao) on Chinese video platforms Tencent Video, iQiyi, and Youku comes up with zero results as of August 26 of 2021.

Zhao Wei’s sudden disappearance from the top websites to watch Chinese TV dramas has sent shockwaves over social media, where Zhao is among the top Chinese celebrities. On Weibo alone, the actress has over 85.6 million followers.

No more Vicky Zhao on Youku.

Zhao Wei (1976) is a Chinese film star, singer, entrepreneur, and director. Together with actresses Zhang Ziyi (章子怡), Zhou Xun (周迅) and Xu Jinglei (徐静蕾), she belongs to China’s ‘Four Dan Actresses’ (四大花旦, the four greatest actresses of mainland China) from the early 2000s.

She starred in the highly successful Chinese costume television show My Fair Princess (还珠格格) which first aired in 1998, after which she went on to star in many TV series and big films, including Painted Skin (2008) and Lost in Hong Kong (2015).

Besides being a known ambassador for good causes, Zhao is also known for her work as a brand ambassador for various international companies, which has added to her wealth. She was named the world’s wealthiest working actress by Forbes in 2015. Zhao is married to the Chinese businessman Huang Youlong (黄有龙), with whom she has a daughter. The couple made it to a list of the world’s wealthiest young billionaires in 2016.

This week, Zhao’s name was deleted from the cast lists of various films and dramas she starred in or directed. A super-topic (fan group) dedicated to her was removed from Weibo, and now various productions involving Zhao have seemingly been removed altogether.

Zhao Wei is no longer listed as a member of the cast.

Zhao Wei reportedly also withdrew as a shareholder from several companies she was involved in.

On Weibo, the hashtag “Zhao Wei Withdraws from Companies” (#赵薇接连退出多家公司#) received over 240 million views on Friday. Another related topic, namely “Zhao Wei’s Super Topic Shut Down” (#赵薇超话被封#) received over 970 million views. Many people want to know why the actress has become the target of official scrutiny.

Chinese state media platform Global Times also wrote about how Zhao Wei’s name and works were removed from several video platforms. These online companies reportedly confirmed the removal of Zhao’s works, saying they received the request at a short notice and without a clear reason.

Among the potential reasons mentioned for Zhao’s name being censored is that it is somehow linked to the scandal involving the fallen Hangzhou Party chief Zhou Jiangyong (周江勇), who is currently being investigated by China’s top anti-graft agency. Zhao and Zhou share a social circle, including Jack Ma, an ally of Zhou and a friend of Zhao and her husband, who are major shareholders of Alibaba Pictures.

Another issue mentioned is that of Chinese actor Zhang Zhehan (张哲瀚) who recently came under fire for attending a wedding at a controversial Japanese shrine and taking pictures at Yasukuni, a shrine that is seen as representing Japanese militarism and aggression. Zhang – who is now basically banned from China’s entertainment industry – was signed under Zhao Wei’s company. Zhao herself also got caught up in history-related controversy as early as 2001, when she posed for a photo shoot wearing a dress printed with the old Japanese naval flag.

Throughout the years, Zhao has been caught up in various controversies. Back in 2016, it was rumored that the actress had financially backed Hillary Clinton when she was still running for president of the United States.

Vicky Zhao and Hilary Clinton.

But the actual reasons why Zhao is being banned from China’s online channels are still unclear. As of Friday night, Beijing time, Zhao’s Weibo page was still up. Her last social media post is from August 15, when the actress commemorated the 76th anniversary of Japan’s surrender.

Meanwhile, some of Zhao’s celebrity friends, including Huang Xiaoming and Yang Zi, have deleted photos they took together with Zhao Wei from their social media channels.

The developments involving Zhao come at a time when various Chinese celebrities are under scrutiny. What’s on Weibo recently reported the scandal involving Kris Wu and the calls for ‘raising the bar’ for celebrities in China. Online fan clubs (or fan circles 饭圈) have also become a target of online censors, with thousands of posts and accounts removed from Chinese social media earlier in August of 2021.

Chinese actress Zheng Shuang (郑爽), whose ‘surrogacy scandal’ caused a social media storm in January of this year, also became a trending topic once again. On Friday, authorities stated that she would be fined 299 million yuan ($46.1 million) for tax evasion and undeclared income between 2019 and 2020. The actress published a public apology in which she stated she would pay for all taxes and fines.

Meanwhile, many people are glued to their social media screens. Around seven o’clock at Friday night, Beijing time, the Weibo topic “What’s up with Zhao Wei?” (#赵薇怎么了#) had already been viewed over a billion times.

Some commenters think that Zhao Wei is simply caught up in this storm because she was involved in so many controversies throughout the years and that the recent crackdown on China’s celebrity and fan circles is just the right timing for authorities to take finally take measures.

“This goes beyond being canceled,” others wrote: “There is something bigger going on, we will just have to wait for an announcement to come out.”

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.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on Contact at, or follow on Twitter.

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China Memes & Viral

When a Scene from a 2010 Chinese TV Drama Goes Viral: The ‘Cao Cao Flips Rice Bowl’ Meme

Cao Cao flipping the rice bowl is another Cao Cao meme that’s widely used to convey internal struggles about facing reality.

Zilan Qian



These days, a viral meme originating from the Chinese TV series Three Kingdoms (三国) has gained significant traction on Chinese social media.

In a memorable scene from the 2010 series, Cao Cao, a prominent warlord in Chinese history played by actor Chen Jianbin (陈建斌), angrily flips his rice bowl upon receiving news of a surprise attack, only to gather the spilled rice back into the bowl later.

This scene featuring an enraged Cao Cao has resurfaced and struck a chord with individuals reluctantly facing reality.

Turning into a popular meme, Cao Cao flipping the rice bowl has become widely employed to convey sentiments of self-inflicted humiliation or the hesitation to undertake certain actions.

The Context of the Scene

The specific scene comes from episode 12 of the Three Kingdoms. Warlord Cao Cao, who is governor of Yan Province, is enjoying his meal when his advisor comes in to inform him about a surprise attack by Chinese military general Lü Bu (吕布), capturing almost the entire province.

The meme of “曹操盖饭.” The term “盖” is often translated as “covering” or “capping.” When combined with 饭 (rice), it forms a noun that refers to a dish where various toppings, such as cooked meat or sauces, cover the rice, similar to a Donburi-style meal.

Upon receiving this alarming report, Cao Cao’s anger flared, and he promptly flipped his rice bowl upside down on the table, an act now commonly referred to as “Cao Cao flips the rice bowl” (曹操盖饭).

Cao Cao’s anger was intertwined with disbelief at Lü Bu’s audacity to execute such a daring attack. Cao Cao’s advisor swiftly clarified that the mastermind behind the attack was Lü Bu’s strategist, Chen Gong (陈宫), who was also renowned as a brilliant strategist during the Three Kingdoms era.

As he grasped the true situation, Cao Cao gradually regained his composure and meticulously gathered the spilled rice back into his bowl – an act now known as “Cao Cao retrieving his bowl of rice” (曹操撤回了一碗饭),- before resuming his meal.

The catchphrase that is used to describe Cao Cao retrieving his rice utilizes the word “chèhuí” (撤回), which means “to recall” or “to retract.” It can be understood as “Cao Cao recalled his bowl of rice,” drawing a parallel to the recall function in WeChat that allows users to retract or cancel a message after it has been sent.

How To Use the Meme

The contrast between the forceful act of flipping the rice bowl and the subsequent unwillingness and silence displayed while putting the scattered rice back into the bowl is a key factor contributing to the meme’s viral nature on the internet.

Netizens have creatively applied Cao Cao’s meme in various situations to express their own internal struggles or a sense of self-inflicted humiliation they experience (自己打自己脸).

For instance, the meme effectively captures the feelings of both white-collar workers and students who utilize the “Cao Cao flips the rice bowl” meme on Fridays. On this day, they express their frustration with the demanding work week and their eagerness to leave their tasks behind.

However, the arrival of Monday brings a sense of reality as they realize the necessity of returning to the office or school. The “Cao Cao retrieves his bowl of rice” meme is then employed to represent the unavoidable resumption of their daily routines.

In this regard, the meme is somewhat comparable to the English “F*ck This Job, *Goes to Work*” meme (link).

“Not Possible, Absolutely Not Possible”

It is not the first time for Three Kingdom‘s Cao Cao to achieve viral status through memes.

Prior to the emergence of the ‘Cao Cao flips/retrieves the rice’ meme, Cao Cao was already well-known for another meme phrase: “Not possible, absolutely not possible” (“不可能,绝对不可能”).

This meme originated from a scene where Cao Cao received news of Liu Bei’s rebellion, immediately after confidently asserting that Liu Bei, another major warlord, would never betray him.

“Not possible, absolutely not possible”

The meme captures the essence of self-deception and the unwillingness to accept the truth. Similar to the current popular meme, this meme is often used to depict situations where someone unintentionally exposes their own flaws or contradicts their previous statements, symbolizing a self-inflicted “slap in the face.”

Read more of our articles about memes in China here.

By Zilan Qian

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China Celebs

Fandom Meets Matrimony: Sea of Brides at Roy Wang’s Concert as Female Fans Show Up in Wedding Gowns

After showing up as brides at Roy Wang’s concert, some female fans attempted to return their gowns within the store’s 7-day ‘No Questions Asked Return Policy’.

Manya Koetse



A recent concert by Chinese celebrity Roy Wang (Wang Yuan 王源) has become a hot topic on Chinese social media as female fans attending the show collectively decided to wear wedding dresses to express their love for the singer.

Born in 2000, Roy Wang is best known as a member of the hugely popular TFboys idol group that debuted in 2013, but his solo career has also been thriving for years. Wang is an award-winning musician, who is now among China’s most influential young celebrities. On Weibo, he has nearly 85 million followers.

The sight of so many fans coming to Wang’s Chongqing concert wearing wedding dresses was already remarkable, but it garnered even greater attention when it turned out that some of the women’s boyfriends were so upset over their girlfriends wearing a wedding dress for another man that they ended the relationship because of it.

On Douyin (China’s TikTok), the related discussion made it to the top 5 trending daily topics list.

Female fans partying in their wedding dress. Photo posted on Weibo.

The story gained further traction when reports emerged that some female fans who had recently purchased wedding dresses for the concert attempted to return them to the store the next day, taking advantage of the store’s policy that allows returns within seven days without requiring a specific reason (7天无理由退货).

“I already wondered why business was suddenly booming,” one Chongqing wedding gown seller wrote on social media, complaining how the return policy was being abused by some of Roy Wang’s fans.

Others saw the fact that they wore the wedding dress to the concert as a unique selling point, and tried to resell their gowns online for more than the original price, claiming that the dress still had “a hint of the concert’s aroma.”

Scene of the concert.

Commenters bombarded these women with negative comments, as the topic also drew wider discussions on how far some fans are willing to go to show their love for their idols.

Some social media users expressed that a wedding dress has a symbolical or even sacred function, and that tying the concept of fandom to matrimony is inappropriate. They condemned the women for showing up to the concert as brides.

Given that many of the commenters criticizing the women were male, there were also feminist voices that condemned these men for their pettiness and chauvinistic attitudes. One comment stood out: “There will always be men whose ego is bruised when women they don’t even know won’t wear a wedding dress and save their chastity for them. Thanks to Roy Wang’s concert, I once again realize the diversity of species.”

In an online poll asking people “Can women only wear a wedding dress once in their lives” (#女生一生只能穿一次婚纱吗#) the majority of people replied that they should just wear whatever they like.

“My first thought is that this is romantic,” one popular entertainment blogging account (@娱大蜀黍) wrote: “My second thought is that it’s actually quite moving. In the midst of their youth, they are writing a passionate chapter for themselves. They will treasure it as a beautiful memory later on in life. They do what they love and they’re not bothering anyone. It’s perfectly fine.”

By Manya Koetse & Miranda Barnes

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

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