At the intersection of KOLs and metaverse lies the niche world of “virtual idols”—animated characters created for the purpose of becoming celebrities. Started in Japan in the 1980s, virtual idols have exploded in popularity in China, especially as Covid-19 continues to change the world of live entertainment: In 2021, the Chinese virtual idol industry was worth 6.2 billion renminbi (almost 1 billion US dollars), and animated star Luo Tianyi attracted over 2.7 million viewers in a Taobao livestream. So how do you build successful virtual idols in China, and will their popularity last in the real world?  

- Elaine Yau - showbiz reporter 
- Inés Feng - Kunyue Shanghai VP 
- Peng Mengyu - Dreamland Maker Tech Branding director 

Middle Earth is distributed by The World of Chinese ( Every two months, both in print and online, the team at TWOC takes a contemporary issue in Chinese society and culture and looks behind the headlines to share how it affects people on the ground.  

Middle Earth is made by China Compass Productions and hosted by Aladin Farré. If you have a China-themed cultural project like shooting your next documentary or look for a specific talent, please get in touch! 

With thanks to Sean Calvo for music support. 

author Aladin Farré

Aladin Farré is the founder and host of Middle Earth Podcast and a contributing writer at The World of Chinese.