Hottest Chinese Actresses of 2023: ‘It Girls’ of Gen-Z

From Zhao Lusi to Shen Yue, and not forgetting Yu Shuxin, here are some of the hottest Chinese actresses to watch out for

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7:43 PM HKT, Thu August 24, 2023 3 mins read

The hottest Chinese actresses of any given moment have always held considerable commercial sway. There’s a serious ‘it girl’ tradition in modern China — the closest Mandarin terms we have to this neologism are little flowers and four dan actresses (the latter phrase originated in a Guangzhou Daily editorial list of the four most popular Chinese actresses in the year 2000).


In the US, today’s list of ‘it girls’ might include the likes of Bella Hadid or Zendaya; but outside of Hollywood, these are the hottest Chinese actresses to watch out for.

1. Zhao Lusi

Zhao Lusi was recently dubbed ‘queen of romantic Chinese dramas.’ Her role in The Romance of Tiger and Rose, a gender-swap TV show that took the Chinese internet by storm in 2020, propelled her to stardom.

And Zhao’s popularity is only increasing. Shes racked up 15.5 million followers on Xiaohongshu, a Chinese platform similar to Instagram, and 23.3 million followers on Twitter-like Weibo. Across social media, her down-to-earth, relatable posts have won her even more fans.


zhao lusi

Zhao Lusi frequently shares snapshots of her personal life online. Image via Xiaohongshu

Audiences love her comedic acting skills and youthful look — and fans are known to track down the brands she wears in order to copy her girl-next-door style.

2. Yu Shuxin

Yu Shuxin or Esther Yu, a singer-turned-actress, is a former member of girl group THE9, which made its first appearance on 2020 idol survival show Youth With You.

She went on to perform in multiple TV shows, and was chosen as the female lead for Love Between Fairy and Devil, the hottest Chinese drama of 2022.


Esther Yu

Yu Shuxin is a fashion inspiration for many young women. Image via VCG


Although her outspoken personality has rubbed some viewers the wrong way, Yu continues to cultivate a growing fanbase on social media.

3. Song Zu’er

Song Zu’er had an early start in the entertainment industry as a child actress in a 2005 TV show, but didn’t gain wider recognition until she took on the role of a tribal princess in 2019 fantasy drama Novoland: Eagle Flag.


She’s known for bringing authenticity to her roles, and netizens have praised her natural acting abilities.


Song Zuer in The Bond

A viral clip of Song Zu’er as Qiao Simei in The Bond. GIF via Weibo


Some call Song a ‘little Cecilia Cheung,’ saying she resembles the iconic Hong Kong actress and Cantopop singer.

4. Zhang Jingyi

Zhang Jingyi is a relative newcomer in the entertainment industry, having made her debut in the 2020 teen drama Run For Young.


run for young

Poster for teen drama Run For Young. Image via IMDb


Despite being a newbie, she’s made significant strides with starring roles in the 2021 historical film 1921, where she stepped into the shoes of former Chinese first lady Soong Mei-ling, as well as 2022 TV show Lighter and Princess, which saw her acting opposite Chen Feiyu, the son of master director Chen Kaige.


it girls zhang jingyi

Zhang Jingyi at a promotional event for espionage thriller Hidden Blade (2023). Image via VCG


More recently, she appeared in Tale of the Night, a film that takes place on a single eventful night in Changsha. She is currently an ambassador for luxury French cosmetics brand Lancôme.

5. Shen Yue

Shen Yue initially faced harsh scrutiny after starring in the 2018 remake of popular Taiwanese romantic drama Meteor Garden; to some fans, the original simply could not be touched. Later though, she went on to win the hearts of many with her well-crafted comedic vlogs.


Shen Yue and her camera

Shen Yue with one of her many cameras. Image via VCG


She is also an avid photographer, and her devoted fans have dedicated time and effort to compiling a list of the camera brands she uses.

6. Zhang Zifeng

After making her acting debut in Feng Xiaogang’s 2010 disaster-drama Aftershock at the age of eight, Zhang Zifeng became widely known as one of the most promising up-and-coming actresses in China.


Since then, she has gone on to star in several blockbusters, including Detective Chinatown (2015) and Sister (2021), as well as in TV dramas like time-travel tale The Heart Of Genius and thriller Homesick, both of which aired in 2022.


Zhang Zifeng

Zhang Zifeng’s mullet has encouraged other young women to cut their hair short. Image via Xiaohongshu


Audiences admire her ability to pull off androgynous fashion, and her unconventional mullet hairstyle has inspired some fans to cut their own hair in the same way.

7. Liu Haocun

Best known for her role in Zhang Yimou’s One Second (2020) and Impasse (2021), Liu Haocun is the latest ‘Yimou Girl,’ a title shared by other impressive talents such as Zhang Ziyi and Gong Li, which refers to actresses who were hand-picked for starring roles in films by legendary director Zhang Yimou.


Many of these actresses emerged from obscurity to achieve immense fame after collaborating with Zhang, and as the first ‘Yimou girl’ born after 2000, Liu’s presence has ushered in a breath of fresh air.


Liu Haocun

Liu Haocun in a scene from Zhang Yimou’s spy thriller Impasse. Image via IMDb


Liu faced social media backlash after it came to light that a past student at her mother’s dance studio had been paralyzed following a severe injury, and some have suggested that the actress is actively lying about her age.


Additionally, some have criticized her acting skills and perceived overconfidence.


Here’s one way to look at it: you know you’ve made it when you’ve got haters.


The landscape of Asia’s entertainment industry is constantly changing, and the hottest Chinese actresses of any given moment could be cold product the following year, given factors like scandals and changing consumer tastes. Nonetheless, these rising talents seem like they’re here to stay.


Cover image via RADII

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