Time sure flies as it’s already the end of 2019. Now is the perfect time to reflect on the year as it was full of great Chinese dramas like “The Untamed,” “Go Go Squid,” and “Goodbye My Princess,” just to name a few. With these stand-out dramas, naturally there is a group actors who also rose to the top with their popularity exploding in 2019. Who are these actors you ask? Well, here’s a list of 2019’s seven hottest rising Chinese actors that you should get to know!
Chen Xing Xu
Our first breakout star from early 2019 is Chen Xing Xu. He is most well known for his dramas “The Legend of the Condor Heroes” and “Goodbye My Princess.” He is a graduate from the Central Academy of Drama, regarded as one of the top three most prestigious film schools in China. The actor made his entertainment debut at a very young age. He was scouted at a park when he was three years old and began to star in advertisements. Chen Xing Xu filmed his very first drama “A Passionate Life” at four years old.
The rising actor started to gain popularity after playing the antagonist Yang Kang in the 2017 drama remake of “The Legend of the Condor Heroes.” Chen Xing Xu’s popularity exploded after starring in the popular historical drama “Goodbye My Princess.” He received rave reviews for his excellent portrayal of the anti-hero Gu Xiaowu/Li Chengyin, a highly flawed and complex character meant to be hated. After the drama started airing, Chen was mobbed by hoards of overzealous fans at the airport.
His next upcoming drama is “The Best of Times” starring Hu Bing Qing, but there is no confirmed set air date yet. Chen Xing Xu is certainly being kept busy with many projects, as he is currently filming the military drama “The Glory of Youth” alongside Li Yi Feng.
Start watching him in “Goodbye My Princess”:
Our next rising actor is known for his outstanding visuals and mesmerizing eyes. Xu Kai started off his career as a model after winning first place at the 2013 China Guangzhou International Model Contest. In 2016, he signed with Huanyu Film and debuted in the drama “Untouchable Lovers.” He gained recognition and popularity for his role as Fuheng in the 2018 historical drama “Story of Yanxi Palace.” The drama was enormously popular in China and internationally. According to Google, “Story of Yanxi Palace” was the No. 1 trending show and the most searched show in the world in 2018.
This year, Xu Kai landed his first leading role in the historical-fantasy drama “The Legends.” His role as the demon prince, Li Chenlan, earned him positive reviews from audiences and a surge in popularity. He also starred in the republican drama “Arsenal Military Academy” and his performance as the rich playboy, Gu Yanzhen, earned him the Best Actor award at the Hengdian Film and TV Festival of China and Singapore’s StarHub Night of Stars 2019.
Xu Kai also made his film debut this year in “Autumn Fairy Tale,” a remake of the Korean drama “Autumn In My Heart.” He also starred in the recently aired historical-fantasy drama “Once Upon a Time in Lingjian Mountain.“ The rising actor is a busy man as he has a line-up of dramas set to air, including: “Dance of the Empire,” “Ode to Daughter of Great Tang,” and “Zhao Ge.” For his next project, he is paired up with Bai Lu again for the third time in the historical drama “Imperial Cuisine,” and he’ll also be working with Cosmic Girls member Cheng Xiao in the e-sports drama “Falling Into Your Smile.”
Start watching him in “Arsenal Military Academy”:
Known online as our “July Boyfriend,” Li Xian’s popularity exploded this year after starring in the hit summer drama “Go Go Squid.” He’s a graduate from the prestigious Beijing Film Academy and officially made his acting debut in the 2012 film “Feng Shui.” Prior to “Go Go Squid,” Li Xian was best known for his supporting roles in the dramas “Medical Examiner Dr. Qin” and “Only Side By Side With You.” In 2017, he starred in his first lead role in the fantasy drama “Tientsin Mystic,” and the show is considered a commercial and critical hit.
Having been working in the industry for quite some time, Li Xian finally got his big break after playing the professional gamer, Han Shang Yan, in “Go Go Squid.” Fans immediately fell in love with his character who exudes a cold demeanor but is actually a sweet, caring man who strives for his dreams. “Go Go Squid” won Drama of the Year at the 8th iQiyi All-Star Carnival, and Li Xian and his fellow “Go Go Squid” co-star Yang Zi also won the respective Male and Female Idol awards. He also won Most Promising Actor of the Year at the 16th Esquire Man At His Best Awards.
Li Xian is currently starring in the historical-fantasy drama “Sword Dynasty,” which is also his first major role in a historical drama. You can look forward to seeing Li Xian in the upcoming crime film “The Enigma of Arrival” in February 2020 as well as the upcoming drama “Pride and Price.”
Start watching him in “Go Go Squid”:
Known for his beautiful bright smile that can slay fan girls all across the globe, Xiao Zhan is a member of the idol group X NINE and his most representative work include the dramas “Oh! My Emperor” and “The Untamed.” Prior to his debut in the entertainment industry, Xiao Zhan studied design at the Modern International Art Design Academy of CTBU (Chongqing Technology and Business University) and worked as a graphic designer and photographer.
He made his acting debut in 2016 in the drama “Super Star Academy.” Having only debuted a few years ago, Xiao Zhan played various supporting roles in the dramas “Fights Breaks Sphere,” “Shuttle Love Millennium,” and the current drama “Joy of Life.” This year, the actor reached a breakthrough in his career after starring in the smash hit fantasy-historical drama “The Untamed.” The drama was a huge success in China and internationally, leading to worldwide recognition for Xiao Zhan. Fans of the drama fell in love with his excellent portrayal of the carefree, charming, and unrestrained Wei Wuxian, who stayed true to his character despite the tumultuous events he faced. Xiao Zhan won the Popular Actor of the Year Award at the 2020 iQiYi Scream Night for the drama.
The rising star also starred in his first leading role in a film this year in the fantasy movie “Jade Dynasty.” The film topped China’s box office on its first day of release and earned over 400 million yuan (approximately $57 million) within two weeks of its release. When the film was released in Thailand, it set the record of the highest-grossing Chinese film in 10 years.
You can catch Xiao Zhan in his upcoming drama “The Oath of Love” starring Yang Zi, which is set to air in 2020.
Listen to the main theme song “无羁” (Unrestrained) for “The Untamed” by Xiao Zhan and Wang Yibo:
Start watching him in “The Untamed”:
It would be absolutely wrong not to include Wang Yibo on our list. He’s better known these days as Wei Wuxian’s other half, Lan Wangji, from “The Untamed.” Prior to his explosive popularity this year, K-pop fans most likely would know him from the Korean-Chinese boyband UNIQ. He is well-known for his incredible dancing skills. Besides acting and singing, Wang Yibo is also a host on the popular variety show “Day Day Up,” and he participated as a dance mentor on the Chinese survival reality show “Produce 101.” He’s also a professional motorcycle racer representing the Yamaha China Racing Team.
Wang Yibo first started acting in 2016 in various supporting roles including “MBA Partners” and “A Chinese Odyssey Part Three.” In 2017, Yibo starred in his first major role in the drama “Love Actually.” This year he starred as the lead actor in the e-sports romance drama “Gank Your Heart” as the misunderstood professional gamer Ji Xiang Kong.
Just like Xiao Zhan, Yibo’s popularity skyrocketed after starring in “The Untamed.” Despite having fewer lines, Yibo was able to portray the cool and calm Lan Wangji with his subtle eye movements and expressions. Despite having a robotic and unfeeling exterior, the exceptional nuances in his eyes perfectly portrayed the suffering and emotions his character went through. He won Breakthrough Actor of the Year at the 2019 GQ Men of the Year as well as Most Popular Actor at the China Golden Rooster and Hundred Flowers Film Festival for his performance in the drama.
You can look forward to seeing Yibo again on the small screen, as he is currently filming another historical-fantasy drama with Zhao Liying called the “Legend of Fei.”
Check out Yibo’s dance battle on “Happy Camp”:
Start watching him in “The Untamed”:
Our next rising star is actor and model Lin Yi! His popularity surged after starring in his very first drama “Put Your Head On My Shoulder.” The youth romance drama was a huge hit in China and internationally. It particularly was popular in Thailand, where it gained a large cult following. Audiences loved his endearing, awkward, and nerdy character Gu Wei Yi, who fumbles in trying to pursue his roommate Mo Mo (Xing Fei).
The 188-centimeter tall star is currently studying at Beijing Sport University, majoring in Ballroom Dance. In his first year of university, he was discovered by his current agent and signed with Tangren Media, who also manages popular actors Hu Ge and Elvis Han. Lin Yi was recently cast in the upcoming historical-fantasy drama “Ling Long” and is working alongside Jiao Jin Mai from “A Little Thing Called First Love.” He will also be making his film debut in the upcoming sci-fi film “Hope Island” with Andy Garcia.
If you’re curious about Lin Yi’s dancing skills, the actor recently uploaded his fan dance practice video to VIXX’s “Shangri-La,” which he performed at his fan meeting in November. You can also see him demonstrate his ballroom dancing skills on the popular variety show “Happy Camp.”
Watch him in “Put Your Head On My Shoulder”:
Our last (but not least) hot rising actor, Jackson Yee, is the youngest on this list, but he is definitely the most popular. That’s because he makes up 1/3 of the massively popular boy group TFBOYS and is famous for his phenomenal dance skills. To even say massively popular is a bit of an understatement on how insanely popular they are. Jackson alone amasses over 80 million followers on Weibo. He is currently studying at the prestigious Central Academy of Drama. Prior to attending the drama school, Jackson starred in various small supporting roles in dramas and films including: “Legend of Chusen” and “Song of Phoenix.”
2019 is Jackson’s breakout year as he wowed audiences with his incredible performances as Li Bi in the critically acclaimed historical-suspense drama “The Longest Day In Chang’an” and as the rebellious and troubled Xiao Bei in the box office hit coming-of-age film “Better Days.” In both projects, it was Jackson’s first time being featured as the lead actor. Critics and viewers all highly praised Jackson for his versatile acting, proving that he is more than just a pop idol. Derek Tsang, the director of “Better Days,” also praised Jackson for being able to easily get into character because he is empathetic. He also said that it is very rare to meet a person like Jackson, who has a strong ability to understand and share the feelings of other people so well.
Recently, Douban (China’s social networking site that allows registered users to rate and comment on films, dramas, books, and music) released their ranking list for the “Most Talked About” actors of 2019, and Jackson Yee along with our other hot rising actors Xiao Zhan, Wang Yibo, and Li Xian are all in the top four of the list.
You can catch Jackson in the upcoming drama “Forward Forever,” also starring Huang Zi Tao, and in the film “L.O.R.D.: Legend of Ravaging Dynasties 2.” To see Jackson flex his amazing dance skills, you can watch him on the variety show “Street Dance of China,” where he battles other dance mentors like Show Luo.
Check out Jackson Yee’s song “念想 (Think About)” for his film “Better Days”:
Start watching him in “The Longest Day In Chang’an”:
blacksesame88 is a long-time Asian drama and entertainment addict. She enjoys discussing her favorite dramas and sharing her knowledge of Asian entertainment. When she’s not watching dramas, she’s busy snapping aesthetic photos of delicious food on Instagram. Follow her on Twitter and join her for recaps of the current dramas she’s watching, also feel free to say Hi and have a chat!
Currently watching: “Joy of Life,” “Wonder Women,” and “The Prince of Tennis”
All-time favorite dramas: “Nirvana In Fire,” “Queen In Hyun’s Man,” “A Witch’s Romance,” “Love O2O,” and “My Mr. Mermaid”
Looking forward to: “Glory of the Special Forces” and “The Oath of Love”