What Does it Mean for Traffic Stars? Understanding C-Drama's Liuliang Trend

When you are into C-Drama and regularly interacting in the Chinese Fandom you will often read and hear people talking about "liuliang" celebrities or traffic stars. 

So what does it mean?

Liuliang celebrities are usually popularized by internet traffic data, thus called "traffic stars". They are characterized by huge and dedicated fan-bases and online traffic data.

Their popularity did not come from credible acting performances or having critically-acclaimed drama or have won numerous acting accolades, but mostly due to having huge supertopic followers, having star-chasing solo fans (sometimes aggressive fans), who are actively supporting them, following them on social media and making them popular by liking and posting comments anywhere in the internet, spreading news about them, and doing anything to generate traffic data. 

Most often than not, being a "liuliang" star in China is a marketing strategy devised by the PR team of a particular celebrity or talent agency to build the star's branding and inflate his or her popularity. 

These PR teams purchase searches and trending topics, comments, and forum insights on social media (weibo, douyin/tiktok, instagram, twitter, facebook etc) to gain digital data and "traffic" for their talents or drama.

Positive Impact of being "liuliang" celebrities

There are positive impact of being liuliang stars. They are easily recognized by the public and their popularity transcends borders. They have massive commercial value. They hugely influence buying behavior of the public, and most brands get them as endorsers due to their colossal numbers of followers and impact in the consumer market.

The production team of the drama they starred in would have no problem promoting the projects because they have strong backing from their devoted fans, regardless if the drama has a high-quality storyline and production value or simply nonsense.

The popularity they generate translated to big revenues for networks and production companies and their drama turns out commercially successful regardless of its quality. 

Negative Impact of being "liuliang" celebrities

However, there are downsides of being "liuliang" stars, and sometimes it outweighed the positive points. They are prone to being the target of toxic attacks from other dedicated fans of rival stars, and often the target of fan wars. 

The PR teams often pay water armies to spam searches and trending topics on social media to create widespread awareness about the stars which ruined the essence of entertainment. Water armies or paid trolls have negative effects on the talents as it reflected their personality in public in a bad light.

As these water armies and dedicated fans resort to anything such as spreading rumors or starting discussions about their favorite stars and attacking other celebrities they considered rivals of their idols, just to generate internet traffic data - the news generated often have a bad impact on the talents.

Liuliang stars are often accused of being just popular due to their devoted fans, and not really due to their acting talent. 

So the term "liuliang" recently has a negative connotation in Chinese entertainment industry because some critics tend to associate them with bad acting and having crazy and obsessed fans who are war freak, just to raise the image of their idols.

PR Teams of some celebrities in China who let their talents take a short-cut road to stardom often resort to dirty tricks by employing or hiring water armies. 

"Water armies" is another term of "internet trolls". It refers to groups or fans being paid to post online comments or write a topic and initiate a conversation about a particular celebrity, sometimes they resort to spreading fake information just to attract social media followings.

The bad side of having these water armies is that they resort to dark schemes like initiating fan wars or spreading malicious rumors, hates and attacks towards "rival" celebrities just to raise the image of their idols or those they served.

Are there exemptions?

Yes.  Some celebrities who are considered "liuliang" stars are not pure liuliang just like Yang Mi, Yang Zi, and Dilraba Dilmurat. 

They have dedicated solo fan base who never resort to dirty tactics online. These actresses are not just traffic celebrities, they are well-respected and known in the international scene due to their high-quality drama.

They often dominate discussions online, but they are also known with their acting talents recognized by acting award-giving bodies and not just those popularity awards.

Both Yang Mi, Dilraba and Yang Zi hold a degree in Acting and graduated from China's most prestigious drama and film schools: Yang Mi and Yang Zi from Beijing Film Academy, Dilraba from Shanghai Theatre Academy.

So meaning, their popularity is not entirely generated from internet traffic data but people tend to watch their drama because of its high production value, good quality storyline and credible acting talent. And they have acting awards that are not based on popularity contest, but from jury.

Dilraba has been known as China's top liuliang actress for years but the traffic data she generated is often less than those of the popular liuliang actors like Xiao Zhan, Wang Yibo, Jackson Yee and some members of the Chinese idol band, TF boys.

However, recently most liuliang actresses, and even actors, are slowly transitioning to serious acting roles and mainstream drama. 

Dilraba Dilmurat will have her first taste of serious role, no longer the idol romantic lead her fans always hoped for, in the legal drama, Prosecution Elite, where she takes the role of a prosecutor. 

Jackson Yee, a member of TF Boys, and China's most popular young actor today, having named number one in Forbes China's 100 Celebrity for two consecutive years, is becoming known for serious drama roles, apart from his singing career.

He has been praised for his credible acting in the critically-acclaimed films, Better Days and Battle in Lake Changjin 1 and 2, and the drama series - Longest Day in Chang'an.

Who are the liuliangs in C-Drama?

There are tons of celebrities in China today who are following the liuliang trend for their branding image, but according to traffic data, the most popular liuliang today are Wang Yibo, Xiao Zhan, Lu Han, Deng Lun, Yang Yang, members of TF Boys, Dilraba Dilmurat, Yang Zi, Zhao Liying, Angelababy and Yang Mi. 

The rising liuliang stars in C-drama today are Zhao Lusi, Liu Yuning, Cheng Xiao (the female lead in Falling into Your Smile), Xu Kai, Dylan Wang, and Bai Lu.

The most popular liuliang actors today in C-Drama

Yang Zi, Zhao Liying, Dilraba and Yang Mi are the most popular liuliang actresses


With the exemptions of popular liuliang celebrities who did not rely so much on traffic data to reach viewers for their drama, and their awards are not entirely based on fan votes like those perennial "Popularity Awards" that tend to disregard acting talents of performers, liuliang stars are largely criticized for downgrading the prestige of the entertainment industry.

Xiao Zhan and Yang Zi recently starred in The Oath of Love

One of the recent criticism came from veteran Chinese actor, Chen Daoming,  who blasted liuliang stars for ruining the essence of the entertainment industry: 

"These so-called stars (the liuliangs), they are not from the artistic or literary world, they are from high traffic circles, they are hyped and purely based on packaging, their presence has affected the integrity and honor of many outstanding creators."

Television and Web viewing ratings are being dominated by drama top-billed by the most popular liuliang stars. 

For instance, Oath of Love by Yang Zi and Xiao Zhan, Dilraba's The Blue Whisper, Yang Yang and Zhao Lusi's Who Rules The World, overpowered serious drama such as "A Lifelong Journey", "Life is a Long Quiet River", and "Challenges at Midlife", in viewer rating.

Due to these drama war ratings that are always won by popular liuliang celebrities, networks and production companies, who are after higher investment return, would not take chances on talented performers but no massive followers. 

Thus, popular liuliang celebrities are the most in-demand in the drama landscape today, hence the criticism that they are ruining the essence of the entertainment industry, and the literary world. 

Popular C-Drama Stars who are not Liuliangs

However, there are popular C-Drama celebrities who did not fall in the category of Liuliang. They generated their popularity and branding image through their talents, and having starred in critically-acclaimed drama, earning them national recognition for their acting performances: 

Actors: Hu Ge, Chen Kun, Deng Chao, Huang Xiaoming, Wang Kai, Liu Haoran and Wu Lei. Actresses: Fan Bingbing, Liu Yifei/Crystal Liu, Zhou Dongyu, are the most well-known C-Drama stars who are not liuliang actors and actresses.

Popular Post 95' generation celebrities who are not liuliang actors

For example, Wu Lei, the youngest on the above list (he just turned 22 last December 26), generated his popularity and established his brand image, not through internet traffic data, but through his acting talent. 

He started as a child actor and by the time he was 11 years old, was recognized as the Most Outstanding Child Actor, by Flying Apsaras Awards, one of the three most prestigious acting award-giving bodies in China. 

He also earned recognition for his role as Fei Liu in the critically-acclaimed drama, Nirvana in Fire, where he starred alongside veterans, Hu Ge, Wang Kai, and Liu Tao.

Until now, Wu Lei, who is part of the Post 95 generation of C-Drama celebrities like Liu Haoran, sets himself apart from the liuliang trend and maintained he wanted to be known as a serious drama and wuxia actor, rather than a traffic star. 

Thus, his solo fan base never resorts to infiltrating searches with supertopic about him, or started intriguing discussion, just to generate data.

Check our separate article about Wu Lei, HERE

Post a Comment