by mz4jun, May 9, 2020
79

I got this article idea from the terms Four Heavenly Kings and Four Dan Actresses. The term Four Heavenly Kings was coined in 1992 in Cantopop, referring to the four most famous Cantopop singers - Andy Lau, Leon Lai, Jacky Cheung, and Aaron Kwok and the term Four Dan Actresses was coined in the 2000s to refer to highest-earning actresses at that time - Zhao Wei, Xu Jing Lei, Zhang Zi Yi and Zhou Xun.

As generations go by, those lists of actors and actresses also get revised, and new generations take the places of older ones. There’s already a term “Four Little Heavenly Kings” informally referring to the four top youngest actors/male celebrities in China - Wang Jun Kai, Liu Hao Ran, Wu Lei and Wang Yi Bo. In this article, I will talk about these four actors plus a few more actors who I think have great potential to become A-listers or have been gaining popularity internationally.

1. Liu Hao Ran

Born on: October 10, 1997

Attending: Central Academy of Drama

Achievements:

  • Best Newcomer award at the 2016 Huading Awards for Detective Chinatown
  • Youngest Best Actor nominee in the history of the Hundred Flowers Awards

He had his acting debut in Beijing Love Story in 2014, an anthology film in which he starred alongside big names such as Tony Leung Ka Fai and Carina Lau. After this, he became really popular in China with his role as Qin Feng in Detective Chinatown film series with superb box office results.

In China, he is considered as one of the best actors in the new generation, with his box office performance, acting capabilities, and his resources and network allowing him to access high-quality production teams and scripts. For example, at the age of 22, he has worked with top directors such as Hong Kong director Andrew Lau (The Founding of an Army), Chen Kai Ge (Legend of Demon Cat, My People My Country, currently filming or planned Flowers Bloom In The Ashes). He might not be that well-known among international audiences as his career focuses on big screens, but he does have popular dramas - With You, Nirvana in Fire 2 and the latest Novoland: Eagle Flag. Upcoming works include the above-mentioned Chen Kai Ge film as well as currently filming crime thriller film called Moses On the Plains with Zhou Dong Yu.

Personally, he is my favourite among this generation's actors.  Firstly, he has good eyes and resources to get good scripts and production team. And he has never failed me in the acting department, he really works hard and is very serious about his characters. Lastly, because of his very grounded personality.  I do recommend to check out all of his works, both small and major roles because he always shines no matter what.

RECOMMENDED WORKS

~Dramas~

With You as Yu Huai
Nirvana in Fire 2 as Xiao Ping Jing


~Films ~

Detective Chinatown series as Qin Feng


~Drama Special ~

Great Expectations: Twin Dragons as Huo Zhen Xiao


2. Wu Lei

Born on: December 26, 1999

Attending: Beijing Film Academy

Fun Facts: 

  • Known as "Nation's Little Brother"
  • Good friends with Liu Hao Ran

Wu Lei started his acting career at an early age as a child actor. However, his first notable work probably is as the young Fei Liu in Nirvana In Fire, also starring Hu Ge and Wang Kai. Later on, he continued in idol dramas like The Whirlwind Girl alongside Yang Yang and Hu Bing Qing. His other high profile dramas would be Tomb of the Sea in 2018 and Battle through Heavens in 2019.

He has another recently finished idol xianxia drama called Guardians of the Ancient Oath, with Song Zuer and Wang Jun Kai, other famous youngsters from the industry and he is currently filming a xianxia drama The Long Ballad (Chang Ge Xing) with Dilraba.

His film career hasn’t gone too far yet. He acted in a supporting role in Shadow directed by Zhang Yi Mou, another well-known Chinese director. Sadly, his other high budget film in 2018, Asura, didn’t do well at the box office and got pulled off from theaters.

I have never really seen his works, so I can’t really comment on his acting capabilities. But, he seems to be well-loved by the public, brands and celebrities and also has good celebrity value based on his brand sponsorships, magazines and events.

RECOMMENDED WORKS

~Dramas~


~Films ~

Shadow as Yang Ping  

(supporting role here)

Note: I haven't watched any of his works yet,  this is based on MDL ratings and reviews; Shadow won Golden Horse Award for Best Director.


3. Jackson Yi (Yi Yang Qian Xi)

Born on: November 28, 2000

Attending: Central Academy of Drama

Member of: TFBOYS

Achievements: 

  • Nominated as Best Actor in 39th Hong Kong Film Awards for Better Days

At the age of 13, Jackson Yi or Yi Yang Qian Xi debuted in a boy group called TFBoys in 2013  which gained huge popularity in China. Now, the group has kind of graduated while members have ventured out into different directions to do what they want to do. With his recent works in dramas and films, Jackson Yi has proven his ability in acting and his intention to pursue an acting career, while at the same time continuing his solo singing career.

He started his acting career with a supporting role as a fox demon in Noble Aspirations/ Legend of Chusen. He doesn’t have many works under his belt yet, but 2019 seems to be his breakout year with high-profile dramas such as The Longest Day in Chang’an and Yan Shi Fan (also stars Huang Zi Tao) as well as a box office hit film Better Days, which also stars Zhou Dong Yu. His performance in Better Days has been praised by critics and fans alike.

Personally, I really liked his performance in Better Days, and he seems to be going for a more serious acting career rather than idol dramas, so I am looking forward to his future works.

RECOMMENDED WORKS

~Dramas~

The Longest Day in Chang’an as Li Bi

(haven’t watched this one but heard great reviews)

~Films~

Better Days as Xiao Bei


4. Karry Wang Jun Kai

Born  on: September 21, 1999

Attending: Beijing Film Academy

Member of: TFBOYS
He is the oldest member of TFBOYS. Similar to Jackson Yi, he also ventured into an acting career when the members started to pursue solo careers. He started out with a supporting role in  Noble Aspirations/ Legend of Chusen in 2016. Later on, he starred in Zhang Yi Mou’s The Great Wall alongside many A-listers such as Zhang Han Yu and Eddie Peng, although the film didn’t do well in both box office and critics reviews. His notable major acting role would be 2018 adventure drama Eagles and Youngster. He has also been a regular member of popular Chinese variety shows such as Give Me Five and Chinese Restaurant.

I haven’t watched any of his works yet, so I can't really review his acting skills. As with other TFBOYS members, he's already got a huge fan base and popularity as well as great resources and opportunities.

RECOMMENDED WORKS

~Dramas~

 Eagles and Youngster as Zhang Bao Qing


5. Arthur Chen (Chen Fei Yu)

Born on: April 9, 2000

Attending: Beijing Film Academy

Fun Facts: 

He is the son of Chen Kai Ge, an acclaimed director in China. Although his first lead role was in a movie called Secret Fruit in 2017, his first major acting role was as Ning Que in the 2018 drama Ever Night, which led him to stardom. His other notable work includes My Best Summer with He Lan Dou, a film remake of With You. He and Liu Hao Ran starred together in an anthology film My People My Country, with many other A-listers and will be starring in another film called Flowers Bloom In The Ashes directed by his father.

He has another upcoming drama in April 2020 called Legend of Awakeningand it seems to be an idol xianxia drama hopefully with a good script by a good production team. He is also confirmed to be in the BL novel adaptation drama Immortality, also known as Hao Yi Xing, alongside Luo Yun Xi.

I personally like him through his works like Ever Night and My Best Summer and his off-camera personality as well. Although he hasn’t been in the industry for long and hasn’t had many representative works, I included him in the list because he seems to have a big potential, not only because of his hard work and capability but also his resources and connections from his father. He seems to be very grounded and well-mannered as well, even though his father is a big name in the industry.

RECOMMENDED WORKS

~Dramas~

Ever Night as Ning Que


~Films~

My Best Summer as Yu Huai

The above five actors are who I would consider as having great resources as well as intention and potential to become A-listers in big screens. Some have already proven their potential, e.g. Liu Hao Ran with Detective Chinatown series, Jackson Yi with Better Days; Others have tried but haven't fully succeeded yet, e.g. Wang Jun Kai with The Great Wall, Wu Lei with Asura. Chen Fei Yu hopefully will also follow through with his later works like Flowers Bloom In The Ashes.

In addition to the above five, there are also a few more actors who might not have that kind of resources but have already gained popularity and fan base internationally. 

6. Wang Yi Bo

Born on: August 5, 1997

Member of: South Korean - Chinese boy group UNIQ


He started his debut as a boy group member of UNIQ in Korea, and then later came back to China when UNIQ went into hiatus. His first main role was in Love Actually with Joe Chen in 2017, however, he shot into stardom only in 2019 with the BL novel adaptation drama The Untamed.

Currently, he is filming another xianxia drama called Legend of Fei with Zhao Li Ying, and it’s also highly anticipated. He is well-known for his dance skills and also active in variety shows as he is a regular member of the popular talk show Day Day Up, co-hosting alongside other veteran hosts.

I personally like his characters in The Untamed and Gank Your Heart, and am looking forward to Legend of Fei. He might not have any critically acclaimed works, and it seems to me that it’s not the direction he is going either. He is more of a mainstream idol actor compared to others in this list.

RECOMMENDED WORKS

~Dramas~

The Untamed as Lan Wang Ji
Gank Your Heart as Ji Xiang Kong


7. Dylan Wang (Wang He Di)


Born on: December 20, 1998

Fun Facts:
  • Before he was a flight attendant 
  • Won first place in Youku's Super Idol in 2016

Similar to Wang Yi Bo, he is also a mainstream idol actor. He gained a huge international fan base after starring in the remake Meteor Garden 2018 as Dao Ming Si. After this success, he became quite active in dramas in these two years. His works include Ever Night 2, replacing Chen Fei Yu as Ning Que, upcoming revolutionary drama in 2020 called The National Southwest Associated University and Us (such a long name!), and another xianxia drama Yu Long (currently filming with Zhu Xu Dan).

I think he has the charisma as an idol actor; it's unsurprising to me that he gained lots of fans as Dao Ming Si. His acting could be improved a lot, but I really hope he chooses the right script and production team.

RECOMMENDED WORKS

~Dramas~

Meteor Garden as Dao Ming Si


8. Song Wei Long

Born on: March 25, 1999

Fun Facts:
  • Has martial arts background
Song Wei Long is another idol actor in the list. He started his debut in a supporting role in Demon Girl II. His major acting role was in a fantasy romance drama Long For You, but I first noticed him as Rong Zhi in Untouchable Lovers, starring alongside Guan Xiao Tong, also a post-95 rising actress. He also played a young handsome love interest of Victoria Song in a recent hit drama Find Yourself, which also gained him lots of popularity. He has a lot of upcoming dramas in 2020 including Go Ahead, a family drama, also starring Tan Song Yun and Zhang Xin Cheng.

I admit his visual is no joke, and I really liked his Rong Zhi from Untouchable Lovers although the plot was a mess. I will be checking out his future works; again, I just hope that he chooses the right script and production team as the quality of Chinese dramas really depends on such factors.

RECOMMENDED WORKS

~Dramas~

Untouchable Lovers as Rong Zhi
Find Yourself as Yuan Song


The article is pretty long now, and I will stop here! This is mainly based on my personal opinion and perceptions of how the public views these actors. There are definitely a lot more Chinese actors born after 1995 who are doing pretty well!

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.


Have you watched any of their works?

Who are your favourites, and why?


Edited by: Yuanwei (1st editor) & Jojo (2nd editor)

liu hao ran song wei long leo wu karry wang jun kai jackson yi dylan wang wang yi bo arthur chen

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