Chinese video maker Li Ziqi impresses the world with her pastoral lifestyle

By Liu Zhongyin Source:Global Times Published: 2019/12/9 21:50:18

Photo:Screenshot of Li Ziqi's YouTube channel

If Li Ziqi hadn't started to make videos recording her countryside life, she might have been a common village girl making a living through doing some handicrafts or being hired at a local factory. 

But Li has become one of the most successful internet celebrities by sharing her rural lifestyle in videos. With 20.77 million followers on Chinese social media platform Sina Weibo and 7.43 million subscribers on YouTube, she has made videos that appeal to netizens around the world.

Chinese pastoral life 

Li decided to stop being a migrant worker in big cities and returned to her hometown, a remote village in Southwest China's Sichuan Province, to look after her grandmother in 2012. She began to take videos showing her rural life in 2016. 

Dressed in traditional Chinese-style clothes and having long straight hair, she seems gentle and quiet. People can easily buy factory-produced soy sauce in stores and supermarkets, but she chooses to make the condiment herself, starting from planting the soy bean in the earth. From food to furniture and cosmetics, Li has amazed netizens with what she can do and how she does it. "She is my favorite YouTuber, chef, artist, gardener," a subscriber called Corazon Cestona commented.

Li appears to have an ancient agricultural life while living in modern times. Tilling farm land and spinning and weaving were two major features of Chinese agricultural society in ancient times. The dependence on nature nurtures Chinese people's affection for natural scenery and promotes the philosophy of living peacefully with nature. 

The beauty of Li's videos is rooted in the revival of the ancient relationship between humans and nature. Foreigners may say that her life is like a fairy tale. There is another word for it in Chinese culture. She is like a recluse who lives an ideal Chinese pastoral life, which is something that featured in ancient poems and paintings. In the ideal rural life, people had a materially and psychologically satisfying life through farming and had enough leisure time to pursue hobbies, while also avoiding the difficulties of other kinds of lives. 


Being famous also means being the target of controversy.

People question whether Li makes the videos by herself and suspect there is a professional studio and even a promotion company behind her. She faces challenges over the authenticity and originality of her videos. She responded to this in an interview with the South China Morning Post in 2018 and said that initially she did all the work by herself but later on she got one videographer and one assistant. 

She also became the target of harsh comments after appearing on a cooking program. The judges in the program were not impressed by the food she cooked and some netizens joked that she was wasn't so good once exposed to the limelight. Some also said that she was not as slim and beautiful as in her videos.

According to Chinese media outlet The Paper, the controversy over whether Li Ziqi has enhanced the influence of Chinese culture abroad is derived from a Sina Weibo blogger's claim that Li has spread awareness of Chinese culture and allowed foreigners to realize the charm of China. The hashtag of Whether Li Ziqi is enhancing the influence of Chinese culture has been viewed 760 million times and reposted 61 thousand times. The opposing voices have various opinions. 

"No matter how popular a star, a self media practitioner or any organization and individual is, they can't represent Chinese culture themselves… Li Ziqi has done very well, but in front of the whole picture of culture and the era, she is just a media girl," one cultural blogger said in a post on Sina Weibo.

An inspiring example 

Li gave a very modest answer in the interview with the South China Morning Post when it was suggested that her success was inspiring. "What I do is just record my life, or put it this way, the life I want to live," Li said.

According to YouTube channel analytics tool Noxinfluencer, Li earns an estimated 1 million dollars a year from uploading videos on the platform. She has made a great success of realizing the immense commercial value from making videos. 

Xu Lixia, one Chinese video blogger who also uploaded videos of cooking Chinese food in a village on YouTube, told the Global Times that Li's videos are perfect in terms of filming and cooking. "Her contents are so diverse and really fascinating. She is living a life everyone dreams of," said Xu.

Her success has inspired other media practitioners to try the genre of recording life in rural areas. She has set up a model for the newcomers but still stands in a leading position. 


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