11 C-Drama Actresses in Post 80s Gen Who Still Get Lead Roles

Chinese actresses 1980s generation

In the highly-competitive entertainment industry, an artist should stay attractive and good-looking to stay relevant, although star power and popularity are critical factors in getting award-winning roles, producers often look at the younger generation to cast on dramas that target young adults.

Most commercially produced dramas nowadays are in the romance genre, may it be in the ancient/historical or contemporary setting, with young female characters. 

Fans adore younger stars and are crazy over good looks and physical appearance, prompting producers and networks to tap performers in the 1990s and 2000s generation to lead drama projects. This trend leaves no room for veterans to get an acting project in the main lead role anymore. 

However, in the Chinese drama industry, despite the strong competition with the young generation, it's amazing to see actresses born in the 1980s have their stars still shine as brightly as before. 

They still can compete with the 1990s girls in getting main lead roles in dramas that target young adult viewers. 

Producers still turn on them to lead web series. To make them relatable to younger viewers, they are often paired with millennial actors. 

So, lately, we've been seeing older women being paired with younger men in many TV/web dramas, and even getting popularity awards just like the millennial actresses. Fairly competitive!

Here are 11 Chinese actresses born in the 1980s who are still hot and are still not out of circulation. They still actively doing web dramas portraying main lead roles. 

We arranged them based on the year they debuted in acting and included their acting projects from 2020 to 2024:

1. Yang Mi

  • Birthdate: September 12, 1986 (Beijing)
  • Acting debut: Tang Ming Huang (series), 1990
  • Education: Performing Arts, Beijing Film Academy
  • Weibo followers: 112.5 million

Yang Mi Chinese actress
Yang Mi slays fashion

Yang Mi was born in 1986 in Xuanwu district, Beijing. She debuted in acting in 1990 at the age of four with a support role in the costume historical drama, Tang Ming Huang aired on CCTV. She made her  big screen debut as a child beggar in the 1992 film, King of Beggars starring Stephen Chow.

However, after King of Beggars, Yang Mi did not make a drama for the next 10 years. Her television drama comeback was in the 2003 series, The Story of a Noble Family

Yang Mi Chinese actress
Yang Mi 

She landed her first main lead role in 2005 series, "Strange Stories From Liao Zhai". In 2006, she played a support role in the classic wuxia drama, "The Return of the Condor Heroes", playing Guo Xiang (daughter of Guo Jing and Huang Rong). 

Her meteoric rise to stardom happened in 2009 when she played the main female lead role in the xianxia drama, Chinese Paladin 3, alongside Hu Ge.

In January 2014, Yang Mi married Hong Kong actor, Hawick Lau, her leading man in the historical drama, Ru Yi (2012). Their wedding was held in Bali, Indonesia, and she chose, Tiffany Tang, her Chinese Paladin 3 co-star, as her maid of honor. 

Yang Mi gave birth to their daughter in June 2014 at Hong Kong Adventist Hospital. Sadly, in December 2018, just weeks before their 5th wedding anniversary, they announced divorce. 

Yang Mi fashion

Yang Mi is still active doing movies and television/web series. Her star power has not diminished and she's still one of China's most influential and popular celebrities with high commercial value. 

Her series in the main role in the last 4 years:

  • Hear Her (2020)
  • Storm Eye (2021) with Vin Zhang
  • Novoland: Pearl Eclipse (2021) with William Chan
  • Thank You, Doctor (2022) with Bai Yu
  • She and Her Perfect Husband (2022) with Xu Kai
Her movies in the main role in the last 4 years:
  • A Writer's Odyssey (2021)
  • Nothing Can Be Undone by a Hotpot (2023)
Upcoming Series:
  • Fox Spirit Matchmaker: Yuehong with Gong Jun
  • In the Name of the Brother with Qin Hao

2. Liu Yifei

  • Birthdate: August 25, 1987 (Wuhan, Hubei, China)
  • English name: Crystal Liu
  • Education: Performing Arts, Beijing Film Academy
  • Acting debut: The Story of a Noble Family (series), 2003
  • Weibo followers: 71.7 million
Crystal Liu Chinese actress
Liu Yifei 

Liu Yifei was born An Feng on August 25, 1987, in Wuhan, Hubei province, China. She is an only child. In 1997, her parents divorced, and she and her mother immigrated to the United States.  An Feng changed her name to Liu Ximeizi, adopting her mother's surname, Liu.

In the United States, they settled in Queens, New York, where Liu Yifei finished her elementary school. She acquired American citizenship years later. 

However, in 2002, she decided to move back to China to pursue an acting career. She enrolled at the Beijing Film Academy's Performing Arts Institute and later received acting offers.

In 2003, Liu Yifei made her acting debut with a support role in the drama, The Story of a Noble Family. Her big break in acting came in 2005 when she starred alongside Hu Ge in the xianxia drama, Chinese Paladin

Chinese Paladin became ultra popular in China, giving Liu Yifei a celebrity status. In 2006, she starred in the popular xianxia, The Return of the Condor Heroes alongside Huang Xiaoming. 

Liu Yifei then concentrated on making movies. In 2008, she played the role of Golden Sparrow in the fantasy movie, Forbidden Kingdom, with Jackie Chan and Jet Li.

In 2017, she auditioned and got the lead role in Mulan, a live-action adaptation of Walt Disney's Mulan. It was aired in 2020.

Liu Yifei Chinese actress
Liu Yifei 

Finally, in 2022 after her long hiatus on television (16 years), she made a drama comeback via, A Dream of Splendor, with Chen Xiao.

Her series in the main role in the last 4 years (she won Best Actress successively for portraying main roles in these series at the Macau International Film and TV Awards 2022 and 2023):
  • A Dream of Splendor (2022) with Chen Xiao
  • Meet Yourself (2023) with Li Xian
Upcoming series:
  • Love Hypnosis (modern romance) with Jing Boran
  • The Tale of Rose (period romance) with multiple male co-stars 

3. Liu Shishi

  • Birthdate: March 10, 1987 (Beijing)
  • English name: Cecilia Liu
  • Acting debut: The Moon and The Wind (series), 2005
  • Education: Beijing Dance Academy major in Ballet
  • Weibo followers: 34.8 million
Liu Shishi Chinese actress
Liu Shishi 

Liu Shishi made her acting debut with a main role in the drama, The Moon and The Wind (2005) where she exhibited her ballet dancing skills. In the following year in 2006, she played a supporting role in the wuxia drama, The Young Warriors starring Hu Ge. 

Three years later, she and Hu Ge worked again in the xianxia drama, Chinese Paladin 3, alongside Yang Mi, Wallace Huo, and Tiffany Tang. 

Liu Shishi 

However, it was not until 2011 that Liu Shishi had a meteoric rise in popularity when she played the main role in the costume time-slip drama, Scarlet Heart, alongside Taiwanese actor and singer Nicky Wu. The drama became hugely popular both in mainland China and overseas. 

In 2015, she and Nicky Wu, registered their marriage in China, and their wedding ceremony was held a year later in Bali, Indonesia. In April 2019, she gave birth to their first child. 

Liu Shishi Chinese actress
Liu Shishi 

Her series in the main role:
  • To Dear Myself (2020) with Zhu Yilong
  • My Best Friend's Story (2020)
  • A Journey To Love (2023) with Liu Yuning
Upcoming series:
  • Fox Spirit Matchmaker 2 (costume) with Zhang Yunlong
  • Kill My Sins (costume)

4. Tang Yan

  • Birthdate: December 6, 1983 (Shanghai)
  • English name: Tiffany Tang
  • Acting debut: Modern Lady (2007)
  • Education: Performing Arts, Central Academy of Drama
  • Weibo followers: 76.7 million
Tang Yan wears a purple tulle gown from Tony Ward

In 2004, Tang Yan was chosen by Chinese filmmaker, Zhang Yimou, to perform with other Chinese "Olympic babies" in the closing ceremony of the Athens Olympics in Greece, to accept the role of China as the next nation host of the 2008 Summer Olympics. 

She made her formal drama debut after finishing college, in the series, Modern Lady, in 2007, starring Wallace Huo and Kristy Yeung, followed by The Story of Zhen Guan (2007). The same year she debuted in the big screen with a main role in the Hong Kong movie, Bullet and Brain (2007).

Tiffany Tang Chinese actress
Tiffany Tang 

Tang Yan rose to popularity in 2009 when she played a support role in Chinese Paladin 3, starring Hu Ge and Yang Mi.

In 2013, she starred in the action-thriller, Agent X, with Luo Jin, her future husband, though they did not get into romance until they worked again in Diamond Lover (2015), followed by the costume historical drama, The Princess Wei Young (2016).

Tang Yan and Luo Jin worked again in the romance drama, The Way We Were (2018) before they announced their engagement that year. 

In October 2018, their wedding was held in Vienna, Austria. She gave birth to their first child in 2019, and Tang Yan resumed acting a year later by filming Blossoms Shanghai, which was aired in December 2023. 

At 40, Tang Yan is still active in show business, and she still slays with her fashion style and glamor, showing no signs of slowing down despite the presence of young girls half her age. 

Her series in the main role (2020-2024):
  • The Legend of Xiao Chuo (2020) with Shawn Du
  • Blossoms Shanghai (2023) with Hu Ge
Upcoming series:
  • A Moment But Forever (costume) with Liu Xueyi

5. Zhao Liying

  • Birthdate: October 16, 1987 (Langfang, Hebei province)
  • English name: Zhanilla Zhao
  • Acting debut: Century Endless Love (series), 2006
  • Weibo followers: 90.9 million
Zhao Liying fashion
Zhao Liying 

Zhao Liying was born in 1987 in Langfang, Hebei province, China. According to public information, she finished her high school in 2005 at Langfang School of Electronic Information Engineering, a secondary professional training school.

After high school, she worked as a waiter to help her family financially. A year later, in 2006, she participated in the Yahoo Search Star Game and became the final winner. 

Zhao Liying fashion
Zhao Liying 

She subsequently signed with Huayi Brothers and made her acting debut in the same year with a supporting role in the series, "Century Endless Love". 

In 2007, she appeared in the family drama, Golden Marriage, and debuted in movies in the same year via The Gold Convoyers 5: Peony Pavilion.

In 2009, Zhao Liying gained attention for playing a supporting role in the costume drama, The Firmament of The Pleiades.

She played her first main lead role in the drama, The Amateur Imperial Bodyguard, in 2010, and rose to popularity in the costume drama, Legend of Lu Zhen in 2013.

At her 31st birthday on October 16, 2018, she announced her marriage to Feng Shaofeng, her co-star in the costume series, The Story of Minglan, which was aired in the same year they announced their marriage. 

She gave birth to their first child in March 2019. However, in April 2021, less than three years on their marriage, Zhao Liying and Feng Shaofeng announced divorce. 

Her series in the main role (2020-2024):
  • Legend of Fei (2020) with Wang Yibo
  • Who is the Murderer (2021) 
  • The Story of Xingfu (2022)
  • Wild Bloom (2022)
Her movies in the main role (2020-2024):
  • Article 20 (2024)
Upcoming series:
  • Legend of Shen Li (costume with Lin Gengxin

6. Angelababy/Yang Ying

  • Birthdate: February 28, 1989 (Shanghai)
  • Acting debut: Trivial Matters (movie), 2007
  • Education: Business, Sacred Heart Canossian College of Business, Hong Kong
  • Weibo followers: 104.9 million


Born Angela Yeung Wing on February 28, 1989, in Shanghai, she was given the nickname "baby" in her childhood. Her mother is Shanghainese and her father is half-German, half-Chinese from Hong Kong.  

At the age of 13, she moved to Hong Kong and signed up for a modeling contract with an international modeling agency. She took the name, Angelababy as her stage name, a combination of her English name and her childhood nickname.


She began her acting career in Hong Kong films, debuting in the movie, Trivial Matters (2007). After appearing in numerous Hong Kong films, finally, in 2012, Angelababy did her first movie in mainland China, First Time.

In 2015, she made her television drama debut via the costume series, Love Yunge From the Desert, which was adapted from the novel, Song in the Clouds by Tong Hua (author of the source novels of Scarlet Heart and Lost You Forever). 

It was followed by General and I (2017) where she was paired with her fellow Hong Kong star, Wallace Chung. 

She made her Hollywood debut in the movie, Hitman: Agent 47 (2015). Followed by the 2016 American science fiction film, Independence Day: Resurgence.

Angelababy Chinese actress

Angelababy rose to popularity in China when she became a regular cast member of the hit variety show, Keep Running in 2014. She later ventured into business. In 2015, she launched her own venture capital fund, AB Capital, and invested in the e-commerce site, Ymatou, and drink brand Hey Juice.

Huang Xiaoming and Angelababy
Huang Xiaoming and Angelababy 

Angelababy dated Chinese actor, Huang Xiaoming, for six years before they revealed their relationship in public in 2014. In May 2015, they registered their marriage in China, and held a lavish wedding ceremony in Shanghai in October 2015.

The star-studded ceremony was reportedly the most expensive celebrity wedding in China.  Angelababy wore an exquisite long-sleeved wedding dress custom-made for her by Dior. 

In January 2017, she gave birth to a son. Sadly, in January 2022, Angelababy and Huang Xiaoming announced their divorce.

Her series in the main role (2020-2024):
  • Love The Way You Are (2022)
  • Twilight (2023) with Ren Jialun 
  • Divine Destiny (2023) 
Her movie(s) in the main role (2020-2024):
  • I Remember (2020)
Upcoming series:
  • Back For You (republican era) with Wang Anyu
  • Everlasting Longing (costume) with Song Weilong

7. Jing Tian

  • Birthdate: July 21, 1988 (Xi'an, Shaanxi province)
  • English name: Sally Jing
  • Acting debut: Anaconda Frightened (movie), 2008
  • Education: Performing Arts, Beijing Film Academy
  • Weibo followers: 26.5 million
Jing Tian Chinese actress
Jing Tian 

Jing Tian was born in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province in Northwest China. She made her acting debut in the 2008 Chinese movie, Anaconda Frightened, and debuted on television in the drama, An Epic of a Woman (2009), in the main role. 

She gained attention for her performance in the romance comedy, My Belle Boss, in 2010, and in the movie, The Warring States (2011).

She rose to popularity in 2015 with her main role in the costume drama, Legend of Ban Shu, alongside Zhang Zhehan, followed by The Legend of Xiao Zhuang, also in 2015.

Jing Tian
Jing Tian 

In 2016, Jing Tian starred in Zhang Yimou's epic costume drama, The Great Wall, with Hollywood actor, Matt Damon. It was the first movie of Zhang Yimou in the English language. 

The movie opened an opportunity for Jing Tian to star in two Hollywood films, Kong: Skull Island (2017), and PacifiRim Uprising (2018).

Jing Tian Chinese actress
Jing Tian 

She became more popular among drama fans when she starred in The Glory of Tang Dynasty, alongside Ren Jialun, which has 92 episodes overall. 

Jing Tian's series in the main role (2020-2024):
  • Rattan (2021) with Vin Zhang
  • City of Streamer (2022) with Timmy Xu
  • Legend of Zhuohua (2023) with Feng Shaofeng
  • Wonderland of Love (2023) with Xu Kai
Upcoming series:
  • Reborn for Love (costume) with Zhang Linghe

8. Mao Xiaotong

  • Birthdate: February 16, 1988 (Tianjin)
  • English name: Rachel Momo
  • Acting debut: Detective (series), 2008
  • Education: Performing Arts, Central Academy of Drama
  • Weibo followers: 21.2 million
Mao Xiaotong
Mao Xiaotong 

Mao Xiaotong was born and raised in Tianjin, China, and studied acting at the Central Academy of Drama. She also trained in competitive ballroom dancing. 

In 2008, she debuted in the drama, Detective, and gained attention for her supporting role in the costume drama, Empresses in the Palace (2011). 

Mao Xiaotong rose to fame when she played a supporting role in the 2016 youth drama, Love 020, and in the costume drama, The Princess Wei Young. 

Mao Xiaotong
Mao Xiaotong 

Her series in the main role (2020-2024):
  • Nothing But Thirty (2020)
  • Reunion: The Sound of the Providence Season 2 (2020)
  • The Bond (2021)
  • Ebola Fighters (2021)
  • Hello Beautiful Life (2023)
  • The Ingenious One (2023) with Chen Xiao
  • The Heart (2023) with Mark Chao and Jin Shijia
Her movies in the main role (2020-2024):
  • Lost and Found (2021)
Her upcoming series:
  • The Legend of Sealed Book (costume) - main role
  • Joy of Life season 2 (costume) - support role
  • Painting  Jianghu (costume) - main role with Yang Xuwen

9. Song Yi

  • Birthdate: October 31, 1989 (Jingmen, Hubei)
  • Education: Performing Arts, Central Academy of Drama
  • Acting debut: The Dream of Red Mansions (series), 2010
  • Weibo followers: 11.2 million
Song Yi
Song Yi

Song Yi made her acting debut playing a support role in the drama, The Dream of Red Mansions in 2010 starring Yang Yang. The same year she played her main role in the revolutionary drama, Mao Anying

She rose to fame in 2015 after playing the role of Yu Manli in the republican spy war drama, The Disguiser starring Hu Ge and Wang Kai.

Song Yi
Song Yi

Her series in the main role (2020-2024):
  • My Heroic Husband (2021)
  • Brilliant Girls (2021)
  • The Most Sweet Love (2021)
  • Day Breaker (2022)
  • Destined (2023)
  • The Nest (2023)
  • You'll Never Walk Alone (2023)
Upcoming series:
  • Follow Your Heart (costume) with Luo Yunxi

10. NiNi

  • Birthdate: August 8, 1988 (Nanjing)
  • Education: Television Broadcasting and Hosting, Communication University of China in Nanjing 
  • Acting debut: The Flowers of War (movie), 2011
  • Weibo followers: 25.1 million
Chinese actress Ni Ni
Ni Ni

NiNi was discovered by Chinese filmmaker, Zhang Yimou, who made her the main lead in his war film, The Flowers of War. NiNi received critical acclaim for her role. She won the Best New Actress award at the Asian Film Awards in 2012.

In 2013, she appeared in three films, Redemption, Love Will Tear Us Apart (with Feng Shaofeng), and Up in the Wind (with Jing Boran). In 2016, Ni Ni starred alongside Taiwanese actor, Mark Chao, in the epic costume drama, Warriors Gate, a French-Chinese production.

Ni Ni Chinese actress
Ni Ni slays in fashion 

Ni Ni made her drama debut on television/web series in the The Rise of Phoenixes (2018) with Chen Kun, followed by the xianxia drama, Love and Destiny (2019) with Taiwanese actor, Chang Chen.

Her series in the main role (2020-2024):
  • My Best Friend's Story (2020)
  • Medal of the Republic (2021)
  • Parallel World (2023) with Bai Yu
Her movies in the main role (2020-2024):
  • Shock Wave 2 (Hong Kong movie), 2020
  • 1921 (2021)
  • Yanagawa (2021)
  • Lost in the Stars (2023)

11. Song Qian

  • Birthdate: February 2, 1987 (Qingdao, Shandong)
  • English name: Victoria Song
  • Acting debut: When Love Walked In (series), 2012
  • Education: Dance, Beijing Dance Academy
  • Weibo followers: 49.0 million
Victoria Song
Victoria Song 

Song Qian was scouted by the casting agent of the South Korean music label, SM Entertainment in September 2007, while participating in a dance competition in Beijing.

She passed the audition under the SM Casting System and was sent to South Korea to train. Two years later, in September 2009, she debuted as a member of the K-pop girl group, f(x).

While a K-pop member, Victoria appeared in several Korean television variety shows which increased her popularity overseas. She even won a Popularity Award from MBC (South Korean TV) Entertainment Award.

Victoria Song
Song Qian

She made her television drama debut in the Chinese-Taiwanese idol romance drama When Love Walked in (2012) where she received a Best New Actress award from China TV Drama Awards.

In 2016, she starred in a South Korean movie, My New Sassy Girl, followed by a Chinese movie, My Best Friend's Wedding (2016). 

Victoria gained popularity in 2016 when she starred in a fantasy Chinese drama, Ice Fantasy with Feng Shaofeng.

Her series in the main role (2020-2024):
  • Find Yourself (2020) with Song Weilong
  • Love Yourself (2020)
  • Love or Stranger (2021) with Ou Hao
  • Broker (2021) with Luo Yunxi and Xu Kaicheng
  • Luoyang (2021) with Wang Yibo and Huang Xuan
  • Beloved Life (2022)
  • Almost Lover (2022) with Timmy Xu
  • Warm and Sweet (2023)
  • Our Interpreter (2024) with Chen Xingxu
Her movies in the main role (2020-2024):
  • The Pioneer (2021)
  • Post Truth (2022)
Upcoming series:
  • Reblooming Blue with Vic Chou
  • Reblooming Blue with Vic C

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