There’s a popular joke circulating about Gao Xiaosong, a controversial celebrity in China who published his new book, Xiaosong Pedia, in June.
The joke is that when Gao Xiaosong and Li Yifeng, a generally considered handsome actor, arrived at the airport at the same time, fans put down their cameras when they saw Gao walking out instead of Li. Joking aside, Gao has twice as many Weibo followers as Li.
Gao doesn’t exactly fit Chinese beauty standards, but his talents, experience and achievements have made him popular.
Most Chinese know the famous campus folk song My Old Classmate, but few knew Gao was its composer, at least not until he started appearing on TV a few years ago.
It’s not surprising that Gao has 37 million Weibo followers if you consider his background.
After he graduated from Beijing No.4 Middle School, one of the capital’s top high schools, Gao enrolled in Tsinghua University, majoring in Electronic Engineering. He quit after two years because he discovered he didn’t like being a scientist. He started studying directing at Beijing Film Academy.
During this time, Gao wrote many campus folk songs, which became very popular, such as Youth Without Regrets and Bro Who Slept in Upper Bed.
Later in the 1990s, Gao began to make music videos for other singers and write articles and scripts. He finished the script for Where Have All the Flowers Gone in 1997 and directed the movie in 1999.
Gao became well-known after he was invited to be a judge on the talent show Super Girl in 2009. However, he only started being regarded as a musician and composer in 2012, when he participated in the talk show Xiao Shuo produced by Youku.
It was on this program that Gao revealed his knowledge about culture and history as well as his skills as musician and director.
In 2014, Gao joined iQIYI for another talk show called Xiaosong Qitan, which attracted more than 100 million views in the first week. On this show, Gao talks about topics ranging from astronomy and geography to Chinese history and foreign issues.
Due to the show’s success, Gao has decided to continue sharing his thoughts by writing them down.
Gao begins his new book, Xiaosong Pedia, with a chapter about the FIFA World Cup and then goes on to introduce the flags of some European countries. He dwells on the religious, cultural and historical aspects of these countries and even describes some of their unusual characteristics, which he calls “bad temper.”
In another chapter, Gao describes aspects of Ming dynasty’s history in a humorous way. His writing is simple and easy to follow.
Gao’s book is different from history textbooks, and it offers an alternative to people who don’t know much about the world.
Although Gao’s six months prison time for drunk driving and his divorce from his wife who was 19 years his junior have made him a controversial celebrity, it’s undeniable that his talent makes him stand out.