Li Yifeng: China’s tastiest piece of 'fresh meat'

2015-08-03 10:06:26 GMT2015-08-03 18:06:26(Beijing Time)  Global Times
Li Yifeng Photo: ICLi Yifeng Photo: IC

From appearing in one of the most watched TV series Gujian Qitan (Legend of the Ancient Sword) in China last July to his role on controversial online series The Lost Tomb this June, Li Yifeng seems to be at the center of a number of popular trends. The 28-year-old singer and actor has become one of China's most talked about young male idols. His booming popularity has brought him the No.9 spot on the 2015 Forbes China Celebrity List, surpassing singer Eason Chan, actress Li Bingbing and even tennis player Li Na.

His huge popularity means his schedule is always full. It took over half a year to arrange for an interview with the Global Times. Sitting down with him, Li kept a warm smile throughout, encouraging me to ask questions and responding to them quickly.

Idol duty

Tagged as one of the most successful pieces of "fresh meat" (a term in China that refers to young and handsome men) of the year, Li has won compliments for his positive energy and sunny disposition.

Even his blogs have a cheery air to them. Reading his entries reveals a man that seems like an outsider to showbiz, someone who talks not only about music and acting but also a lot about current affairs.

"More people are looking at me now, so I have to choose my words carefully and think if they will have any negative impact. I sometimes find myself conflicted in wanting to show what I really feel on the inside, but I know I am not living in a vacuum. Among those people that pay attention to me are a lot of teenagers. I need to be careful not to lead them down the wrong path," Li said.

Li said he is not very optimistic by nature, and so he tries to make every day a fresh start. "When I go to bed I worry that I'm not doing my best. But when I wake up, I don't feel like it's all that necessary to worry about everything."

Li explained that he finds it interesting to attend events where there are fans. For instance, during an event in June for The Lost Tomb, Li was amazed by the discipline of his fans as he found he could cause the crowd to fall silent or break into loud applause with just the slightest movement of his eyes or a finger, inspiring his fans to cheer for the other actors attending the event.

"I have my social duties, not only in leading my fans. This doesn't mean that I'm becoming somebody else, but this duty has taught me to curb my emotions and make changes on my own," said Li.

Price of fame

Before his sudden rise to fame, Li's career was in a tepid mood for nearly seven years. Stepping into showbiz by winning the No. 8 spot on talent show My Hero in 2007, he started his career with music, modeling and acting as the handsome romantic lead on TV.

When talking about how this popularity has changed his life, Li told the Global Times that he felt very prepared ahead of time.

"I was always living as an entertainer, the only difference now is that I am getting much more attention than before. As soon as I began working in the entertainment industry, I was prepared for the fact I would have to deal with fame and someday be very busy," he said, adding that his schedule for the rest of the year has already been planned out which kind of takes the surprise out of life. " I rarely make plans. I hated making plans for the new semester when I was a student. Things change every day, it's hard to make accurate plans."

Playing the leading role of Baili Tusu in Gujian Qitan, adapted from the eponymous PC game, earned Li a lot of new young fans in 2014. The character is quiet and loyal, carries a terrible destiny but keeps fighting against misfortune. Though the character can't seem to escape his doomed fate, Li's life certainly has changed.

While the character of Baili Tusu has received decent feedback from players of the original game, the character of Wu Xie from this summer's The Lost Tomb has been rather controversial. While the original character in the book is a grave robber, in the show Li plays a kind and patriotic student who steals antiques from grave robbers and silently turns them back over to the government. His most famous words have even become a new Internet meme: "I want to hand this bronze bull's head over to the nation."

"I have some similarities to these roles. Wu Xie for instance, both of us are innocent. Which doesn't mean we are stupid. We have our own ideas but we still believe that things will turn out all right. This kind of attitude helps me keep my good mood," Li told the Global Times.

To stretch himself as an actor Li has tried to play different roles. For instance in Forever Young, he wears a dress and dances ballet.

His ambitions are not just limited to acting. Currently working as a producer on reality show Yiqi Chufa on Hubei TV, he said that not that he is getting older and a bit fatter, there might come a day when he has to rely on his skills as a producer to put food on his table.

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