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7 Rad Influencers to Follow for a Better Understanding of Chinese Culture

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Chinese culture, one of the oldest, richest, and most diverse in history (then again, we’re biased) will likely never be entirely understood by a single person. Even the most studious historians usually specialize in niche areas, such as regional cuisines or traditional attire.

But as this listicle demonstrates, the internet makes for insightful and entertaining content on China and Chinese culture — and for free too!

Time is precious, and to spare you the effort of poking around, take it from us and follow these seven influencers who unpack various aspects of Chinese culture in easily digestible formats:

1. Xiran Jay Zhao

Xiran Jay Zhao (they/them) is not only a bestselling sci-fi author but also boasts more than 437,000 followers on their YouTube channel. Zhao first rose to fame with their viral video critique of Disney’s controversial film Mulan.

The YouTuber often posts video analyses of Asian representation in the mainstream media while sharing well-researched and highly-entertaining explanations of Chinese history, mythology, and culture.

2. Accented Cinema

Chinese Canadian filmmaker and essayist Yang Zhang is the mastermind behind Accented Cinema, arguably the best YouTube channel on East Asian cinema with a particular focus on Sinophone films.

Zhang’s video essays are a masterclass in film critique and filmmaking. Peppered with personal touches and witty jokes about Chinese-Canadian identity and Asian representation, Zhang’s content has what it takes to keep fans glued for hours.

3. Subtle Asian Baking

Founded by Kat Lieu in 2020, the online community Subtle Asian Baking (SAB) was created to explore the intersection of baking and Asian cuisine.

SAB, which boasts a 137,000-strong fan count on Instagram, has become an authority on Asian-inspired delicacies. Come June 2022, Lieu’s first published cookbook, Modern Asian Baking at Home, will be available in stores worldwide.

Lieu is also a mover and shaker in the Stop AAPI Hate movement, and what works better at bringing people together than food?

4. Mochi Hanfu

Think fashion has changed a lot in the past couple of years? Wait until you see how traditional Chinese attire has evolved over thousands of years.

@mochihanfu

Reply to @kachuchart Mulan (but historically accurate) 🐉 #mulan #apifamily #history #hanfu #disney #lishang

♬ Mulan: I’ll Make a Man Out of You – Geek Music

An expert in ancient Chinese beauty and attire, Mochi Hanfu offers detailed tips on reproducing traditional Chinese looks while sharing unique insights into classic Chinese art, mythology, and literature via TikTok and YouTube.

5. GGnoHadid

Making audiences laugh on both sides of the Great Firewall, Griffin Gu boasts large followings on both TikTok and its Chinese counterpart, Douyin.

Better known as GGnoHadid, the Boston-based aviation consultant first went viral for his hilarious sketches highlighting cultural differences between China and the U.S.

@ggnohadid

Chinese mom vs US mom #asiantok#chinese#mandarin#fyp#foryou#comedy#joke#grocery#asian#mom#gourmet#international

♬ original sound – GGnoHadid/GG没有Hadid

Even unnecessarily confusing aspects of the English language don’t escape Gu’s roasts.

@ggnohadid

I spendt time effort and energy just to confuse myself with water and waters #language#english#chinese#mandarin#joke#fun#funny#relatable#student#college#unversity#esl#struggle

♬ original sound – GGnoHadid/GG没有Hadid

6. The Woks of Life

One of our go-tos for authentic Chinese recipes, The Woks of Life is run by a family of four, who test every recipe — sometimes more than once — in addition to cooking, photographing, and writing about their dishes.

When Judy and Bill moved from the U.S. to Beijing, they feared that their daughters, Sarah and Kaitlin (who remained in the U.S.), would eat fewer Chinese dishes and therefore lose touch with their culture.

Thus was born The Woks of Life as a means to pass on culinary knowledge from one generation to the next. Social presence aside, a namesake cookbook is also underway.

7. Shuoshuo Chinese

How well can you understand a country if you don’t speak its language? While learning Mandarin can be daunting, Shuoshuo Chinese is an excellent place to start.

Not your average Mandarin teacher, Shuo is adept at creating practical and funny videos for those who want a different approach to learning a new language.

Textbook knowledge of Mandarin aside, Shuo is well-versed with colloquial expressions that are often nowhere to be found in traditional language courses.

Cover image via Haedi Yue

Beatrice Tamagno
Beatrice is a graduate student in sociology at Fudan University in Shanghai. Her writings have appeared on SupChina and ChinaNauts, an online magazine she co-founded with fellow researchers from Fudan. When she is not researching gender in contemporary China, you will find her playing mahjong or binging Chinese TV shows.

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