C-Drama Heartthrob: Cheng Yi. His Resurgence Story and Drama Projects

Chinese actor Cheng Yi profile

In any film and television industry around the world, it will only take one unforgettable project to make a drama star insanely popular. However, this fate is not easy. 

In fact, in a volatile industry like show business where everything is unpredictable and unstable, and where stars' tale of rise and fall is the only constant, there's no sure formula to stardom. 

Even stars whose names are already established, sometimes suffer a meltdown of career unexpectedly because their drama projects performed badly.

So what is it that makes a star shine the brightest?

We don't have a definite answer either, but it takes a good script and a blend of powerful delivery, plus the artist's unique charisma, to attract drama viewers.

These three factors must go hand in hand: Good script, good performance, and charm, to propel a star's meteoric rise to stardom. An absence of any of these combinations, won't make one an apple-of-the-eye of drama viewers overnight.

Chinese actor Cheng Yi profile
Cheng Yi as Li Xiang Yi in Mysterious Lotus Casebook

Take for example, Cheng Yi, the handsome 33-year-old Chinese actor who has been in the Chinese entertainment industry for more than a decade, and had quite a few hits in the past years, and in fact already popular. 

But only this summer that he had the biggest meteoric rise to stardom in his acting career, thanks to his summer smash hit martial arts drama, Mysterious Lotus Casebook (Read our review HERE).

Chinese actor Cheng Yi profile
Cheng Yi

Chinese actor Cheng Yi profile
Cheng Yi

But what made the whole thing really crazy is that iQiyi's original series, Mysterious Lotus Casebook, was not even supported by big promotions, and the main cast - Cheng Yi, Joseph Zeng, and Xiao Shunyao don't have large fan bases, compared to other leads of dramas aired this summertime.  

And yet Mysterious Lotus Casebook became an overnight mega hit during its run, sending the three main cast to the height of their popularity. 

Chinese actor Cheng Yi profile
Cheng Yi with Mysterious Lotus Casebook co-stars, Joseph Zeng and Xiao Shun Yao

The Resurgence of Cheng Yi into unprecedented popularity

But the one who benefited the most is Cheng Yi, who has been portraying costume drama roles for a decade. In Mysterious Lotus Casebook, he played a dual role - Li Xiang Yi and Li Luan Hua. Two characters with opposing personalities, which he successfully delivered, giving each character a distinct identity.

Chinese actor Cheng Yi profile
Cheng Yi 

Cheng Yi has been in the showbiz industry in China for more than 10 years now. He made his acting debut on television in 2011 (Beauty World), a year before he graduated from college. 

In 2012, he obtained a degree in Performing Arts from China's top acting school, the Central Academy of Drama in Beijing. His Acting education helped him to thrive in an ultra-competitive entertainment industry in China.

Cheng Yi Mysterious Lotus Casebook
Cheng Yi in Mysterious Lotus Casebook

It appears that most drama productions in China have more confidence in giving big roles to celebrities who obtained an acting degree from China's top drama schools - the Central Academy of Drama, the Beijing Film Academy, and the Shanghai Theater Academy.

Producers and directors thought that because of their acting training, it would be easier for them to take any drama roles, with just minimal supervision from the production crew. They know the art and what is expected from them because acting schools in China fully immersed their students into the art of performing in front of the camera.

Cheng Yi Mysterious Lotus Casebook
Cheng Yi in Mysterious Lotus Casebook

After college graduation, Cheng Yi made two more dramas - one mini-series, and a Republican-era-themed drama, Love in the Storm, which was left unreleased - before he transitioned to the big screen.

Cheng Yi Mysterious Lotus Casebook
C-Drama actor, Cheng Yi 

He debuted in movies in 2012 via a suspense/mystery film, Haunting Love, playing the main role of Su Yang. This was followed by Love Drifting in 2013, Yue Ming Qi Yuan, Inside The Girls in 2014, Lost Summer and Impossible in 2015. However, none of these movies fared well in the public consciousness, so Cheng Yi made a television comeback in 2016.

Cheng Yi Mysterious Lotus Casebook

He starred in Noble Aspirations, also known as Legend of Chusen, alongside Li Yifeng, Zhao Liying, and Yang Zi in 2016. 

The first season was aired on Hunan TV and the second season was streamed on Tencent Video. This drama was a commercial success in China. Cheng Yi rose to popularity for playing the role of Lin Jingyu, the childhood friend of Zhang Xiaofan (played by Li Yifeng). 

Cheng Yi returned to the big screen in 2018 via The Big Rescue movie. He played Chen Bin, an elite police dog trainer.

Cheng Yi Mysterious Lotus Casebook

Still finding his niche in the industry, Cheng Yi tried experimenting with different roles, both in the movies and television dramas. 

In 2019, he played Zhang Qi Ling in the second season of the fantasy adventure drama, The Lost Tomb, appearing alongside Neo Hou who played Wu Xie. 

Chinese actor Cheng Yi

However, his attempt to climb the pedestal of stardom came with minimal success. It did not help with the fact that he only got fewer drama projects, not to mention portraying uneventful roles. 

His talent agency, H&R Century Pictures seems loaded with too many stars that they could not create a balanced distribution of good projects to their rising talents. 

Well, until 2020. Cheng Yi finally had his star moving into the brightest spot in the celestial body of stardom in the all-too-loaded Chinese entertainment industry.

Cheng Yi Mysterious Lotus Casebook
Cheng Yi in Love and Redemption 

Cheng Yi played the role of Yu Si Feng in a xianxia drama, Love and Redemption, alongside Yuan Bingyan, who is Dilraba Dilmurat's batch mate at Shanghai Theater Academy's drama department. It was based on a xianxia novel, The Glass Maiden by Shi Si Lang.

Love and Redemption turned out to be one of the biggest Chinese drama hits in 2020, which sealed Cheng Yi's fate as one of C-dramas heartthrobs and popular male actors. He didn't look back since then.    

Cheng Yi Mysterious Lotus Casebook

After playing Yu Si Feng, Cheng Yi became a household name and one of the most in-demand actors in the costume drama genre in China. 

His agency, discovering that Chinese television dramas and web series offered more success in penetrating the global entertainment market, shifted Cheng Yi's craft to the small screen.  

After Love and Redemption, Cheng Yi appeared in another costume drama, The Promise of Chang'an (2020), playing the role of the 9th Prince, Xiao Cheng Xu/Duke Yan. 

The Promise of Chang'an
Cheng Yi in The Promise of Chang'an 

In 2021, he had a minor role in the patriotic drama anthology. Faith Makes Great, and a lead role in Stand by Me, another costume drama (also known as Dream of Chang'an).

Unlike other Chinese stars who made a balance of portraying roles in modern and costume series, Cheng Yi seems to be more comfortable in the costume drama genre, thus, his agency, H&R Century Pictures, gave him more costume drama projects.

Cheng Yi Mysterious Lotus Casebook

It was only in 2022 that he did a modern series, Draw The Line, a legal drama where he portrayed Zhou Yi An, a legal assistant-turned-judge.

He had a support role in the costume drama, Imperial Age in 2022, portraying the young Zhu Di (played by Feng Shaofeng in adulthood). 

Cheng Yi Mysterious Lotus Casebook
Cheng Yi in Immortal Samsara 

But it was in another xianxia drama in 2022, Immortal Samsara, that Cheng Yi increased his popularity. It was his reunion drama with his Noble Aspirations co-star, Yang Zi.

Cheng Yi Mysterious Lotus Casebook
Cheng Yi as Li Lianhua in Mysterious Lotus Casebook 

However, this year, Cheng Yi has an ultra-rise to stardom after playing a dual role in the mega-hit summer drama, Mysterious Lotus Casebook. 

The drama also went on to become the second highest-rated costume drama in Douban in 2023 after An Ancient Love Song, and the most popular costume drama in 2023 on the rating platform after cruising past 400,000 users rating the drama. 

Cheng Yi Mysterious Lotus Casebook
Cheng Yi and his pet dog in Lotus Tower

Mysterious Lotus Casebook's explosion has been attributed to word-of-mouth from passersby (drama viewers who are not part of the fans' club of any of the cast members) who admired the drama's compelling storyline, script, and character developments, and brilliant plot twists. 

In mainland China, where drama viewers are martial arts fanatics, people are constantly on the hunt for good wuxia series, but only a few one catch their fascination. Mysterious Lotus Casebook is one.

According to reviewers' comments in Douban, Mysterious Lotus Casebook successfully presented a balance of thrill, mystery, humor, charm, surprising twists, and well-choreographed fight scenes to capture their interest.

The fact that it presented so many interesting twists, clever ways to solve strange cases, a strong bond of brotherhood, and irresistible charm of the three main characters - made this series one of the most unforgettable martial arts dramas in recent memory.

Cheng Yi Mysterious Lotus Casebook
Cheng Yi as Li Lianhua 

Drama viewers became enamored also by the vast wisdom and moral lessons that Cheng Yi's two characters imparted. 

In Li Xiang Yi, we saw a person who was consumed by power and ambition to be the world's best, and in the process forgot the things that matter most in life. His stubbornness ultimately backfired. He lost everything and ended up a broken man.

In Li Lian Hua, we saw a person who acknowledged life in a different perspective - more peaceful, simpler, and quieter. In the process of redeeming himself, he realized that having wealth and being in power is not important. What's important is the everyday survival and food you can put on the table.

Cheng Yi Mysterious Lotus Casebook

One commenter said, "In the end, whether Li Lian Hua is alive or not, is beyond the scope of this drama. What the audience gained the most is actually the way of doing things in real life. The world is vast and there is no need to be persistent when things can't no longer be fixed. Don't live in regrets. Learn to let go. Forgive. Move on. And start life anew. Tomorrow things will get better".

It is through this impressive portrayal, with a combination of good script and charm that Cheng Yi earned another shot to stardom, this time it's more massive and grand, cementing himself as one of the best Chinese actors in the costume genre who can deliver an extraordinary performance.

He gained more followers, inside and outside mainland China. People began appreciating his personality more, his great acting talent, his flawless swordplay skill, and his irresistible charm. 

Cheng Yi Mysterious Lotus Casebook

Cheng Yi truly became the "flavor of the season" this year and even a month after the airing of MLC, he continues to dominate discussions online. 

This summertime, he is one of the Chinese drama stars who has the biggest explosions, in terms of followers and fans' reactions on social media platforms.

Fewer drama actors in this generation can have a resurgence in popularity after existing in the industry for more than a decade. Most of them who started early will experience a decline in popularity after reaching their 30s due to the presence of the new breed of fresh talents.

Cheng Yi Mysterious Lotus Casebook

In an industry where charm and physical features are the biggest investments, celebrities often experience plummeting careers and fewer role offers in dramas. Because production began to shift to young and attractive actors who could tickle viewers' fantasies.

But Cheng Yi, who is in his early 30s, seems to be one of the fewer exemptions. He still maintains an aura of freshness and youthful appeal, looking more attractive and charming than ever. His soulful eyes, polished jawline, porcelain skin, and really handsome face continue to mesmerize fans. 

He can fairly compete with younger actors in winning drama fans' hearts and attention. He seems to be more irresistible and handsome now than in the previous years. 

More fans are chasing his whereabouts, his online activities, and his upcoming dramas. Indeed, his resurgence in popularity this year is one of the most impressive and massive among male celebrities in the 90's generation. 

Cheng Yi has still one finished drama waiting to be aired. Deep Lurk, a republican spy drama (which he finished filming in May 2020). 

Deep Lurk is the first time that Cheng Yi played the role of a spy agent, it acquired the license of distribution in December 2020 and would supposedly be aired on Jiangsu TV, however, no updates were heard about the final airing date. 

Cheng Yi Mysterious Lotus Casebook

Cheng Yi's Bio-Data:
  • Real Name: Fu Shi Qi
  • Screen Name: Cheng Yi
  • Birthdate: May 17, 1990
  • Birthplace: Hunan, China
  • Height: 5'11
  • Talent agency: H&R Century Pictures
  • Degree: Drama/Performing Arts
  • School: Central Academy of Drama, Beijing, China
  • Year Graduated: 2012
  • Acting debut: 2011 in Beauty World
Cheng Yi Mysterious Lotus Casebook

List of Acting Projects:

Series (finished filming but not yet aired):
  • Hero Legends (TBA, done filming in 2023) Genre: Costume/Martial Arts - main role: Lu Yan
  • Deep Lurk (TBA, done filming in 2020) Genre: Action/War/Spy/Republican era - main role: Yun Hongshen
  • Love in the Storm (TBA, done filming in 2014) Genre: Action/War/Republican era - main role: Lei Pei Jun
Series currently airing:
  • South Wind Knows - genre: Modern Romance. Streaming app: Youku
Cheng Yi Hero Legends Chinese drama
Stills of Cheng Yi as Lu Yan in Hero Legends

Cheng Yi Hero Legends Chinese drama
Stills of Cheng Yi as Lu Yan in Hero Legends

Series (Done airing):
  • Mysterious Lotus Casebook (2023) Genre: Costume/Martial Arts - main role: Li Xianyi/Li Lianhua. Read our Review
  • Draw The Line (2022) Genre: Modern/Legal Drama - main role: Zhou Yi An
  • Immortal Samsara (2022) Genre: Costume/Fantasy- main role: Tang Zhou/Emperor Ying Yuan/Xuan Ye
  • Imperial Age (2022) Genre: Costume/Historical - support role: Zhu Di (young)
  • Stand by Me (2021) Genre: Costume/Historical - main role: Qi Yan
  • Faith Makes Great (2021) Genre: Drama anthology - support role
  • The Promise of Chang'an (2020) Genre: Costume/Historical - main role: Xiao Cheng Xu 
  • Love and Redemption (2020) Genre: Costume/Fantasy - main role: Yu Si Feng Read our review
  • The Lost Tomb II (2019) Genre: Adventure/Fantasy - main role: Zhang Qi Ling
  • Noble Aspirations (2016) Genre: Costume/Fantasy - main role: Lin Jing Yu
  • Miss Dong (2014) Genre: Romance/Comedy/TV Mini-series only 2 episodes - support role: Dong Xiao Ye's boyfriend
  • Beauty World (2011) Genre: Costume/Historical - support role: Feng Xiao Bao
Upcoming series (in pre-production):
  • Fox Spirit Matchmaker: Wang Quan. Genre: Costume/fantasy. Main role: Wang Fugui
  • The Big Rescue (2018) Genre: Modern/Adventure - main role: Cheng Bin
  • Impossible (2015) Genre: Science-Fiction - support role: Tian Ye
  • Lost Summer (2015) Genre: Modern Romance - main role: Chong Zi
  • Inside The Girls (2014) Genre: Crime-Thriller - main role: Gao Mu Nan
  • Yue Ming Qi Yuan (2014) Genre: Science-Fiction/Romance - main role: Yu Zhan
  • Love Drifting (2013) Genre: Short film with only 37 minutes of running time - main role: Xiao Yi 
  • Haunting Love (2012) Genre: Mystery/Horror - main role: Su Yang. Read our review HERE

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