Li Ziqi: A Romantic in the Year of the Plague

The secret to the popular lifestyle vlogger’s appeal? She’s a Romantic with a capital “R.”

Last year, amid the clamor and horror of a plague, a quiet, resourceful farmer in China’s southwestern countryside seemed to heal all wounds. Does Li Ziqi still require an introduction? Her videos — mostly wordless, meditative glimpses of an idealized pastoral, rural life — have billions of views on Tiktok and Youtube, making her one of a handful of Chinese influencers to achieve global fame.

Li’s videos and elusive public personality seem to invite speculation: Is any of this unedited, unscripted, authentic, or real? The short answer is no; the longer answer is that you’re not asking the right questions. Some describe her as a Disney princess for the streaming era, but this is a mistake. It is rather the Disney princesses who resemble her: She is not a realist, but a Romantic.

Romanticism was born with its head in the clouds, as can be seen from Caspar David Friedrich’s emblematic 1818 painting “The Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog.” At its core, romanticism was an artistic movement that arose in reaction to the industrialization and excessive rationalization of early 19th century life. The Romantics saw the natural world as full of enchantment rather than resources; they proposed nature, emotion, and solitude as antidotes to pollution, contagion, and death. It’s no wonder that the 21st century revival of Romanticism has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change: We’re trying to appease nature by watching more of it. Continue to read the full article here

– This article originally appeared on Sixth Tone.