In this post you’ll find a list of what we think are the 10 best videos created by 李子柒 (lǐ zǐ qī) - Li Ziqi, the Chinese 网红 (wǎng hóng) - internet celebrity - whose online videos about Chinese culture and cuisine have enamored tens of millions of people around the world. These videos beautifully portray elements of traditional Chinese culture like 端午节 (duān wǔ jié) - The Dragon Boat Festival - and 文房四宝 (wén fáng sì bǎo) - The Scholar’s Four Jewels, making you feel like you’re actually there in China yourself! We’ve also included some useful resources to help you better understand and enjoy the full experience.
But first, let’s learn how a little orphaned farm girl from rural southwestern China became one of the biggest internet names in the world.
Li Ziqi’s Story
Seeing how happy and successful Li Ziqi is today, you would never guess how difficult of a childhood she endured. Her parents divorced when she was little, and after her father’s early death she was mistreated by her stepmother. Eventually she was taken in by her grandparents to live with them on their farm.
Most areas in rural China are far less developed than their urban counterparts. This means life in the countryside is often much more difficult, forcing those that live there to rely on themselves for even the most basic necessities. Combined with the loss and hardship she suffered as a child, this made Li Ziqi become very independent and mature from an early age; and drove her to learn a wide variety of skills.
Foremost in her list of talents is her ability to cook traditional Chinese cuisine, which she learned from her grandfather who was the village cook. In her videos she can also be seen crafting, making clothing, building furniture, and even following the ancient Chinese methods of making paper and ink by hand!
When Li Ziqi was 14 years old, her grandfather passed away. In order to support herself and her grandmother, she had no choice but to drop out of school and leave her grandmother, going into the city by herself to work. Over the years she worked many different jobs; including a restaurant waitress, a bar DJ, and even trying to start her own business. In 2012, after she’d lived in the city for eight years, her grandmother was diagnosed with a serious illness with no one at home to take care of her.
There’s a common Chinese phrase - 子欲养而亲不待 (zǐ yù yǎng ér qīn bú dài) - which expresses the universal belief of Chinese people that life’s greatest regret is when a child wants to take care of their parents but it’s already too late. In order to make sure she would never carry this regret, Li Ziqi decided without hesitation to return to the farming village once again so she could be there for her grandmother that had taken her in as a child.
Upon returning to the village, Li Ziqi thought to open a 网店 (wǎng diàn) - online store. This way she could take care of her grandmother while also ensuring their financial well-being. Early on in the process, Li Ziqi decided to create some videos to promote her 网店 (wǎng diàn). And so her very first online video came to be. While her 网店 (wǎng diàn) failed to become very profitable, her promotional videos went viral. Li Ziqi was baffled to find herself quickly becoming an internet sensation. In Chinese, the idiom 阴差阳错 (yīn chā yáng cuò) is used to describe when a strange combination of circumstances brings unexpected results. So it can certainly be said that she became a famous 视频博主 (shì pín bó zhǔ) - vlogger - by 阴差阳错 (yīn chā yáng cuò)! Li Ziqi soon became incredibly successful with her online content, and now makes new videos at least once a month.
On China’s social media platform 微博 (wēi bó) - Weibo, Li Ziqi currently has over 27 million 粉丝 (fěn sī) - fans. On the Chinese version of 抖音 (dǒu yīn) - TikTok, she has over 54 million followers! As of 2021, she holds the Guinness World Record for the Chinese language 油管频道 (yóu guǎn pín dào) - YouTube channel - with the most subscribers at nearly 15 million! Even more impressive, Li Ziqi’s internet videos have a total of over 6 billion views! This is nearly the same as if every single person on Earth had watched one of her videos! Li Ziqi is certainly worthy of the title: 国际网红 (guó jì wǎng hóng) - international internet celebrity.
In an interview about her videos, Li Ziqi shared, “My original idea in shooting these videos came when I realized that young city people had no idea where the things they ate, wore, used, etc., came from; and it just so happened that these were things I am very familiar with! When my viewers watch me go through the process of planting and producing all these things, while also getting a glimpse into the peace and quiet of rural life, they can experience profound relaxation and relief from the stress of their busy city lives.”
When you watch Li Ziqi’s videos you’ll find that they truly are wonderfully relaxing with a beautiful Chinese 古风 (gǔ fēng) - ancient-style. They are considered to be the quintessential expression of the 田园生活 (tián yuán shēng huó), which is the term used to describe the idyllic rural lifestyle depicted in ancient Chinese poetry. In China, people often dream of escaping their busy modern lives and experiencing this 田园生活 (tián yuán shēng huó), and Li Ziqi has enabled them to do just that.
Li Ziqi’s 10 Best Videos for Chinese Culture Immersion
Here we’ve listed 10 of her videos that we feel best capture important elements of Chinese culture. In order to get the most out of them and better understand the cultural messages they contain, we strongly encourage you to go through the keywords and linked resources listed underneath each video before watching. Enjoy!
1. Chinese New Year Dinner
- 年夜饭 (nián yè fàn) - New Year Dinner
- 中国剪纸 (zhōng guó jiǎn zhǐ) - Chinese Paper Cutting
- YYC Blog: Learn Chinese New Year Vocabulary
- YYC Blog: Five Traditional Chinese Art Forms You Need to Know
- Wikipedia: Chinese New Year
2. Zongzi for Dragon Boat Festival
粽子 (zòng zi) - Zongzi
- 端午节 (duān wǔ jié) - Dragon Boat Festival
- YYC Blog: Chinese Holidays and Traditional Festivals in 2021
- YYC YouTube: 端午节 (duān wǔ jié) - Dragon Boat Festival
- Wikipedia: Dragon Boat Festival
3. Congee for Laba Festival
粥 (zhōu) - Congee
- 腊八节 (là bā jié) - Laba Festival
- YYC Facebook: Happy Laba Festival!
- Wikipedia: Laba Festival
4. Mooncakes for Mid-Autumn Festival
月饼 (yuè bǐng) - Mooncakes
- 中秋节 (zhōng qiū jié) - Mid-Autumn Festival
- YYC Blog: Chinese Holidays and Traditional Festivals in 2021
- YYC YouTube: Celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival with Yoyo Chinese
- Wikipedia: Mid-Autumn Festival
5. Qixi Festival
七夕节 (qī xī jié) - Qixi Festival / Chinese Valentine’s Day
- YYC Facebook: How to Celebrate 七夕 (qī xī) in 2020
- YYC Blog: 5 Chinese Holidays You May Have Never Heard Of
- Wikipedia: Qixi Festival
6. Double Third Festival
- 上巳节 (shàng sì jié) - Double Third Festival
- Wikipedia: Double Third Festival
7. Traditional Chinese Papermaking
- 四大发明 (sì dà fā míng) - Four Great Inventions
- Wikipedia: Four Great Inventions
8. Traditional Chinese Batik
- 中国蜡染 (zhōng guó là rǎn) - Chinese Batik
- China Highlights: Chinese Batik: Wax Printing
- Wikipedia: Batik
9. Suzhou Embroidery
- 苏绣 (sū xiù) - Suzhou Embroidery
- Wikipedia: Suzhou Embroidery
10. The Scholar’s Four Jewels of China
- 文房四宝 (wén fáng sì bǎo) - The Scholar’s Four Jewels
- Wikipedia: The Four Treasures of the Study
Of course, the absolute best way to immerse yourself in Chinese culture is through learning to speak Chinese yourself! And thankfully it doesn’t have to be as painfully difficult of an experience as you may have heard elsewhere. If you don’t believe us, just head to Lesson 1 of our Beginner Conversational Chinese course, Chinese Is Easier Than You Think, and start actually learning Chinese . . . today!
Level 1 of the Beginner course is completely FREE (that’s 45 video lessons - each with practice and quiz activities!) and will take you through everything you need to learn about pinyin, tones, and how to tackle pronunciation. It will also equip you with the vocab and grammar you need to start introducing yourself and speaking basic conversational Chinese in no time. So check it out!
Best wishes from the Yoyo Chinese team, and may your journey into the Chinese language and culture be as wonderful as ours has been!