Chinese Pop Culture Primer: What You Need to Know About Luhan, China's Top Androgynous Celebrity Endorser
Chinese Pop Culture Primer is a feature on the Beijinger that explains the ongoing trends in popular Chinese culture.
If you don't know who Lu Han is, you're not alone. As Hollywood actor Matt Damon soberly discovered during the shooting of Zhang Yimou's The Great Wall, you may not be the star of your own film whenever Lu is around.
"It's a little overwhelming when someone like Luhan shows up with fans. I think the first night before he started shooting, there was something like 400 flower arrangements came to the hotel and took up the entire hallway." said Damon.
Recently running away with 37 percent of the vote in a Tencent poll that named Lu the most popular celebrity among Chinese millennials, it's clear that Lu Han is a big deal in China.
It would be easy to dismiss 27-year-old Lu Han (鹿晗) as China's top pop idol entertainer who, as a product of the South Korean pop idol industry, is best known for his acting roles and singing steamy RnB-infused songs in sexless music videos. But, as it turns out, the pop star popularly known as "Luhan" has many sides to him.
So who is Luhan? What's so special about him? If you've heard his name before, it's probably because he is ...
China's top celebrity endorser and an actor with a less-than-sterling track record
Luhan is a big star in China, and big stars in China endorse products. Lu's name has been associated with selling everything from fast food giant KFC, the Volkswagon Beetle and laptop maker Lenovo. Unfortunately, Lu's golden touch doesn't extend to everything he touches.
Lu served as an "ambassador" to promote Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015, donning the robes of a Jedi as well as releasing a music video in support of the first Star Wars movie to have a theatrical release in China. However, Lu was unable to mobilize his fans to support the film. The Force Awakens went on to have a disappointing box office run in China, much the same way as The Great Wall, that starred Luhan, was panned by Chinese audiences and critics alike.
Lu will continue to take on big roles, and is set to cameo as Chinese Deng Xiaoping in a film to be released this year.
Western observers who find Lu to be androgynous-looking may not be surprised to discover that ...
Luhan is a celebrity endorser of women's cosmetics
"Fresh meat" (小鲜肉 xiǎo xiān ròu) is the unflattering label female Chinese fans give to their make celebrity crushes, but it's not always because of their overt masculinity. This is clear from the recent trend of using male Chinese celebrities to endorse female products like cosmetics and feminine hygiene products.
Luhan serves as a celebrity endorser for L'Oreal cosmetics while other "fresh meat" known to hawk make-up products include Kris Wu, Li Yifeng and Zhang Yixing.
Lu is also responsible for a number of Chinese internet memes, the weirdest one of which is ...
Luhan turned a Shanghai mailbox into a tourist attraction
In April of last year, Luhan posted a photo of himself standing next to a mailbox on Zhongshan Road in Shanghai. From then on, that mailbox became famous due to its association with Lu. The Paper reported that crowds wishing to have their photos taken with the mailbox had to wait in a 300-meter-long queue while the SCMP reported the paint on the area of the mailbox touched by Lu has already been worn out.
But Lu's rabid fans are also responsible for setting a record both impossibly vast and mundane ...
The Guinness World Record-setting Weibo post with the highest number of comments was made by Luhan
In September 2012, Lu published an innocuous post on the Weibo micro-blogging platform about his favorite football team, Manchester United. Since then, his fans have continued to add more and more comments to it to the point that it now exceeds 100 million, thereby setting a Guinness World Record. Lu's fans continue to add comments to the post to this very day.
Even though he is a superstar in China, he has a lot in common with fly-by-night expat English teachers. That's because ...
Luhan's improper visa use has gotten him into hot water
Luhan went to Taiwan last year to film a TV show, Off to School. Unfortunately, he and many of the show's crew came to Taiwan to work by using tourist visas, something that has gotten the popstar banned from entering the self-governed island for five years.
But, being famous is tough because ...
Luhan has complained about his fans being too fanatical
Lu has a convoluted history in the entertainment industry due to prior involvement with boy band EXO (and its "sub-group" EXO-M) that has earned Lu many South Korean fans called "sasaengs." However, Lu thinks some of them have gone too far.
Lu's recent single "Roleplay" contains the following lyrics,
I have to wear helmets because of the gaze that follows me anywhere I go
Don't touch me! You chased me day and night, you're insane
Don't come to my house's parking lot anymore,
if I see you again, I won't forgive you
The conservative nature of Chinese culture limits the amount of sexiness permissible in today's society, shaping the country's pop idols into innocent models of chasity who try not to gyrate too hard. Even though some celebrities have been involved in scandals of vice and corruption, the worst thing that can happen to a Chinese pop idol is to suggest that they aren't available as a potential "mate" for their fans.
That's why it's not so surprising that the latest gossip says ...
Luhan is rumored to have a girlfriend and a child
"China's top paparazzi" is credited with the juicy career-ending rumor that China's top pop idol is a responsible father and family man. We don't know what to think except that it must be difficult to raise a child while having to always wear a helmet.
Want to listen to the K-Pop sounds of Luhan? Check out these jams (all Youtube):
- What If I Said: Lens glare, auto-tune, copious product placement, wistful staring off into the middle distance ... this video has got it all.
- Skin to Skin: Lots of Rorshach, little dancing in this music video in which the song is completely sung in English.
- Roleplay: If you're going to be caught on video surveillance, you might as well be caught looking good wearing eyeliner.
- Excited: Lasers, holograms, and a 90s cellphone ring.
- The Witness: Standard Mandopop fare.
- And here's a live performance in Beijing (warning: LOUD screaming by fans).
More stories from this author here.