Chinese media outlet's search for YouTuber's home causes online controversy

Source:Global Times Published: 2019/12/23 14:19:53

Photo:Screenshot of Li Ziqi's YouTube channel

Photo: Screenshot of Li Ziqi Weibo account

With 21.66 million followers on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo and 7.72 million subscribers on YouTube, Li Ziqi has become one of the most successful Chinese internet celebrities by sharing her rural lifestyle in videos with netizens across the world. In one video, she rides a horse while wearing a long red cape, and in another she builds some bamboo furniture from scratch. The unusual content combined with the breathtaking scenery on rural China makes her videos feel very cinematic. 

While many have been attracted by her seemingly simple lifestyle, there are those who doubt the authenticity of her videos and lifestyle.   

On Sunday, Chinese newspaper Time Weekly published an article online titled "The 48-hour search for Li Ziqi's home," detailing a trip made on December 13 to the city of Mianyang in Southwest China's Sichuan Province, the area where Li is said to live. 

"Where is Li Ziqi's home? Is her life really as peaceful as revealed in the videos? Is there a team behind the scenes controlling everything with the ultimate goal of earning fame and money?" Asking these questions, the writer of the article began the search for Li's home.  

The writer first arrived in Pingwu, the northernmost county-level division of Mianyang. Surprisingly, few people in Pingwu knew of Li. The writer went in a small diner, where the owner was very kind and ready to help. The owner said this was the second time she had heard Li's name, the first being from her middle school daughter. She watched the video clips of Li on the writer's phone and paused for a closer look at the scenes in the videos from time to time. 

"I have been doing farm work since I was a child. We don't have this type of grapefruit nor this type of rice. The basket on her back is also different from what we have here. She possibly lives in the south, such as Pingtong county or Jiangyou city," said the owner. 

When the writer arrived at Pingtong township the next morning, again, few people seemed familiar with the name Li Ziqi. After wandering through multiple villages without any luck, a white tower called Wenfengta turned things around. The tower built in Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) appeared in a video about crawfish that Li uploaded in May 2018, which narrowed the home of Li down to the four villages around the tower. After talking with 20 to 30 villagers, the writer was finally able to find Li's two-story home. 

Over the following two days, the writer discovered that Li's neighbors and the other villagers were rather reluctant to talk about her or where she lives, which the writer interpreted as their way of keeping Li from being disturbed. 

"There is an otherworldly air about her. If we associate a secular place with her, such an air will be disturbed. We don't want that. So we are trying to keep things secret. To some extent, we are actually protecting her," an anonymous official from the Youxian district in Mianyang told Time Weekly.     

"I feel like that I'm temporarily detached from my daily routine and am able to leave all impetuosity behind. Watching her videos is almost like wandering through the fields and experiencing a peace of mind that doesn't belong to me," the article quoted a netizen on Chinese question and answer site Zhihu as saying. 

"Looking back at the three days of searching, where Li Ziqi lives does not matter anymore," the article concluded.

Some Chinese netizens condemned the article, calling it an invasion of privacy, while others defended it by saying that Time Weekly was simply trying to verify the authenticity of Li's videos and lifestyle without leaking her address. 

Following the debate online, the article was deleted.     


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