Young Chinese female actresses are gaining popularity overseas from their looks, acting skills and personal characteristics

By Zhang Yihua Source:Global Times Published: 2017/3/6 15:48:39

Many foreigners have become fans of young Chinese female stars because of their beauty and acting skills. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Penny Walker, a 28-year-old translator from the UK, recently found herself enjoying a performance by Zhao Liying, a popular Chinese actress, when she was watching Legend of Lu Zhen, a 2013 Chinese historical romance TV drama.

She was impressed with Zhao's ability to successfully portray the intelligence and courage of Lu Zhen, the heroine she played in the program. "She has made the character come to life," she said.

It was not the first time that she was captivated by Zhao's talent. She first became a fan when she fell for Princess Qing'er, the role Zhao played in New My Fair Princess, a 2011 Chinese TV drama.

Young Chinese actresses, like Zhao, have attracted a great number of fans. Currently, Zhao has more than 47 million followers on Sina Weibo, China's Twitter-like micro-blogging platform, and Yang Mi, another Chinese actress, has more than 70 million followers.

These Chinese actresses are not only hot in China but also popular among foreign audiences as an increasing number of them are entering the international market.

Many foreigners like Walker, are becoming fans of young Chinese female stars, for both their looks and acting. Their popularity is also helping change how foreigners perceive Chinese women.

Great beauty

Walker admitted the beauty of young Chinese female stars catches her attention and helps her decide to watch the TV dramas or films they are in.

"Everyone likes beauty," she said. "I would not bother watching an actress if she is not beautiful."

According to her, she only clicked play for New My Fair Princess after she saw the stills of Zhao and felt happy with her appearance.

"Her wide, amber eyes, thin eyebrows and cherry lips, which are all perfectly aligned on her face, make her extremely beautiful," she said.

Although the drama received mostly negative reviews on social media, she surprisingly found Zhao cute and lovely.

"A friend of mine only shared the drama with me to show me how terrible a drama it was. She never thought that I would go as far as to be a fan of an actress in it," she said.

She explained that Zhao's baby face, delicate features, natural facial expressions and movements all helped shape her role as a lively and kind princess.

Hailing from the US, Joe Gill, a 26-year-old accountant, agreed that the appearance of an actress is a crucial factor as to whether he would like her or not.

He is also a fan of Zhao. He especially liked the shape of her face, which he compares to a goose egg. He pays special attention to the shape of actresses' face, which he believes could decide the delicacy of facial features.

He noted that compared with Western female stars, a good number of whom have round or square faces, many young Chinese female stars have smaller faces and thus finer features, to which he felt more attracted.

He explained that although some of his friends found square faces more beautiful, as the wide jaw line could enhance the looks and the smile, he felt that facial features look more delicate on the faces in the shape of a melon seed or a goose egg than on those in the shape of a ball or a square.

He cited that Yang Mi, another Chinese actress that he is a fan of, has a face shaped like a melon seed and her thin chin and jaw line make her look smart and endearing in his opinion.

He was first astounded by Yang's beauty when watching A Clear Midsummer Night, a 2013 TV drama that was among the first Chinese dramas he ever watched.

"I like her big and bright eyes as well as double-fold eyelids and long eyelashes," he said. "Her creamy, unblemished and white skin make her very pure."

He added that he also found Yang's body type attractive.

"Although she was slim, she was also curvy," he said.

Gill also fell for Yang because of her ability to look gorgeous in all types of outfits and styles.

He explained that when Yang was playing Xia Wanqing in A Clear Midsummer Night, she managed to look casual, smart and feminine.

"I thought it was her style, but she kept surprising me with new styles," he said.

He cited that Yang looked like a fairy, very feminine and pure, when she was playing Bai Qian in Eternal Love, a 2017 Chinese drama, but she succeeded in unveiling a cool and edgy side with leather pants and sunglasses in some of the photos she recently shot for a magazine.

"She even looked amazing when putting on a baseball cap and a pair of sneakers while wearing a formal dress," he said.




Popular young Chinese female stars in Chinese dramas help foreign audiences learn more about Chinese women. Photos: IC and CFP

Outstanding acting

Mira Suhardi, an Indonesian graphic designer, is also a fan of Yang and she is drawn to the actress because of Yang's acting skills.

She really enjoyed her performance in Eternal Love.

She even shed tears when Su Su, the character played by Yang, jumped through a hole and said goodbye to Yehua, the hero. "[Through Yang's acting,] I can see [the character] emerging [from the drama] into real life," she said. "Two thumbs up for Yang."

Walker also attached great importance to acting and found it difficult to fall for stars if they were not good at interpreting or representing the roles they played.

She liked Yang's performance in Eternal Love because she did really well playing three completely different characters.

She believed that a bad actor or actress could hardly make any breakthroughs with a character except displaying what he or she was like in real life or a single facet of himself or herself on screen no matter what role he or she was playing. However, a talented actor or actress could show thousands of different versions of themselves.

She cited that Yang managed to bring different characters to life in the drama, as she could be a fairy as the immortal Bai Qian, kind and soft as Su Su, a common human being, and naughty as Si Yin, a woman disguised as a man.

Jie Pin, a 22-year-old student from Singapore, also considered acting important as it is what draws her attention to the actresses she is a fan of.

She became a fan of Tang Yan, a Chinese actress, for her acting talent when she stumbled upon Silent Separation, a 2015 TV drama, on YouTube.

Impressed with her performance, she then looked for dramas and films starring Tang, like Lady and the Liar, a 2015 TV drama, and Perfect Couple, a 2014 TV drama. In fact, she was so passionate that she even read the novel Silent Separation was based on.

She found out about Zheng Shuang, a Chinese actress, when she saw the trailer for Love O2O, a 2016 TV drama, on the Internet. Afterward, she became a fan because of the amazing chemistry Zheng had with the hero on screen. "Now, I look for TV shows and movies that feature my favorite stars," she said.

Chinese females

Gill has never been to China and has no idea what Chinese females are like. Therefore, he sees Chinese female stars as a window through which he can get a picture of true Chinese females.

He realized that most of the time, Chinese female characters in American films were often portrayed as either exotic mistresses and hookers or Westernized independent women.

He is disappointed at those stereotyped female figures, because he feels they are  basically what the West thinks and hopes the East should be, and that it is not what Chinese women truly are.

When he watched Legend of Lu Zhen, he felt pleased to see Chinese female figures in Chinese dramas that were portrayed in a different way.

He cited that he was amazed to see how Lu Zhen employed her wisdom and inner strength to rise from a mere lady-in-waiting to a prime minister during the Northern Qi (550-577).

He was in awe to see that Lu Zhen, amidst constant scheming from her stepmother and princes, finally managed to appeal to the Supreme Court to re-investigate her father's murder after going through a series of difficulties.

"Chinese women could be tough and persistent," he said.

When he watched Boss & Me, a 2014 Chinese TV drama starring Zhao, he was impressed that Xue Shanshan, the heroine played by Zhao, faced up to her rival in love and pursued her own happiness.

He noted that although there was a great gap between Xue Shanshan, being a lowly employee and a simple and regular girl from the country, and Feng Teng, the hero and Xue's boss, Xue still bravely fought for her love.

Gill said that he, as well as many friends who have never been to China or made any Chinese female friends, thought that most Chinese women, compared with their Western counterparts, were more delicate and restrained in personality. However, to his surprise, the female characters portrayed in many Chinese dramas often presented a different picture, like Lu Zhen and Xue Shanshan.

He admitted that what is in drama and films does not always reflect reality, but after watching these performances, he believes he can say he has a general idea as to what Chinese women are like.

Similar to Gill, Walker was not sure about the characteristics of Chinese women, but she also managed to get a hint through Chinese actresses, such as Zhao and Yang.

"They seem to be more modern and liberal than I expected, but I can not be sure until I visit China, meet some Chinese women, make some Chinese female friends and see for myself," she said.

"I have decided to visit China soon and I am sure that I will have a more definite answer then."

Newspaper headline: Eastern femme fatales


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