Meet the green-flag boyfriends of Chinese drama

The gaze, gravitas, and chivalry—Leo Wu, Chen Zheyuan, Zhou Yiran—how can you not…

Now global heartthrob Leo Wu as Lin Yiyang who falls in love at first sight in 'Amidst a Snowstorm of Love.' (Image from Netflix)

He’s her older brother’s best friend and her childhood crush—Zhao Lusi and Chen Zheyuan create a netizen fandom in  ‘Hidden Love.’ (Image from Netflix)

Zhang Lu Rang, Duan Jia Xu, and Lin Yiyang are the green-flag cis (gender recognized at birth) gender boyfriends upping the ante for manifesting not only the ideal but also the gorgeous life partners. They’ve redefined romance, turning it from a classic relationship of economic and political expediency into one of affection filled with sweeping loving gestures.

Here’s the catch: They’re not real. They’re the main characters in the fairytale-like Chinese drama (C-drama) series When I Fly towards You, Hidden Love, and Amidst a Snowstorm of Love. Nonetheless, the make-believe trio has had netizens dreaming of meeting men who put their beloved above everyone and everything else.

A crush that develops into something serious is what 2023’s When I Fly towards You is all about. Adapted from the novel She’s a Little Crazy by Zhu Yi, the 24-episode series chronicles the relationship of high school classmates Zhang Lu Rang (Zhou Yiran) and Su Zai Zai (Zhang Miao Yi).

The plot is the formulaic girl-meets-boy: Zai Zai bumps into Lu Rang and is smitten. They’re complete opposites: She’s a ray of sunshine while he’s a gloomy Gus. But she isn’t deterred by his demeanor and is, in fact, spurred by it to get to know him more. She succeeds and they grow to like one another, weathering a separation when Lu Rang transfers to another high school. What follow are their interactions—romantic moments, fits of jealousy, misunderstandings, and reconciliations—through their high school, university, and professional lives.

Lu Rang is the model boyfriend—caring, affectionate, attentive. As a teenager, he writes and replies to Zai Zai’s letters regularly. He surprises her by attending her high school graduation. As an adult, alerted by the distress in her voice over the phone, he drives all the way to where she went on a business trip to console her. (She rejected a client’s advances and her boss wasn’t happy about it.)

The series ends with their marriage and quiet celebration of their impending parenthood.

Destiny’s uncanny way of making people fall in love when the situation points to the opposite direction is the story of Hidden Love. Based on another Zhu Yi novel, Secretly, secretly, but unable to hide it, the 2023 25-episode series narrates the romance of Sang Zhi (Zhao Lusi) and Duan Jia Xu (Chen Zheyuan).

Sang Zhi has had a crush on Jia Xu since childhood—he’s her older brother best friend—especially when he became her tutor in physics. But it was unlikely for them to get together because she was in high school and he in college, and they lost contact when Jia Xu moved away after graduating.

Their romance begins after a two-year radio silence when fate puts them in the same city where Jia Xu works as a game developer and Sang Zhi is a Yihe University freshman. No sparks fly during their accidental meeting because Jia Xu is riled at seeing Sang Zhi with a pack of cigarettes that accidentally fell out of the pocket of her borrowed coat.

Eventually, they develop feelings for each other in their frequent meetings. Jia Xu also learns Sang Zhi’s long-held secret that he’s her first (and only) love.

Jia Xu is a bonafide green flag: He works part-time while studying to help pay for his father’s hospital confinement following an accident. He poses as Sang Zhi’s older brother and talks to her teacher about her academic problems, just to save the juvenile Sang Zhi from getting scolded by her family. He prioritizes Sang Zhi’s well-being: He rents an apartment nearer her campus so that she has an alternative place to rest and study. He takes out a restraining order against Jiang Ying, his former classmate, who maligned and threatened Sang Zhị. (Ying blames him and his father for causing her father’s death.)

Their romance culminates with Jia Xu proposing to Sang Zhi on a beach in front of her family and their friends.

Zegna Global Ambassador Leo Wu is ‘Rising Actor of the Year’ in the 2023 GQ China’s Man of the Year Awards. (Image from @leowu1226 and zegnaofficial)

Lin Yiyang shows them why he’s the world’s champion in pool in ‘Amid Snowstorm…’. (Image from @linliguo)

Lin Yiyang and Yin Guo as the perfectly matched couple loved by netizens (Image from @linliguo)

Amidst a Snowstorm of Love is 2024’s most popular romance C-drama so far. It is based on Mo Bao Fei Bao’s web novel During the Storm. The 30 episodes relate how love brings Lin Yiyang (Leo Wu), enfant terrible of billiards, and Yin Guo (Zhao Jin Mai), elite snooker player, together in a chance meeting in a bar in Finland during a snowstorm.

It’s coup de foudre (love at first sight) for Yiyang who, trudging through snow, stops in his tracks when he sees the forlorn Yin Guo through the window of Red Fish. He forgets the snowstorm momentarily, gazing at her ardently, longingly, which he does throughout the series.

Yiyang’s no ordinary green-flag partner. He’s what content creator Deema Abu Naser calls “a forest with golden leaves,” with his gaze, gravitas, and chivalry, setting him an ocean apart from the sea of cads.

He has no qualms showing and admitting his feelings. He’s considerate, taking Yin Guo and cousin to their lodging after having only met them. He adjusts to her, not wanting to discomfit her. He’s undaunted by distance: He traverses two distant cities in Finland— running himself ragged in the commute—just to see her. He heads from Finland to China for her birthday and flies back hours later. He’s unfazed by people opposed to their relationship, such as Yin Guo’s mother, Wu Qian, and her cousin Xiaodong. The former was the match referee that he locked horns with in a tournament, resulting in his suspension and retirement from the sport at 16. The latter is his former co-trainee and rival.

Yiyang’s love for Yin Guo spurs his comeback to pool, return to China, and reconciliation with his former mentor. His decision to face his past to forge a future with Yun Guo reflects maturity and uprightness, moving Xiaodong to approve their relationship. He tells Yin Guo that he’s “a decent guy” despite lacking wealth and social connections. Likewise, Yin Guo’s coach casts his vote for Yiyang as her boyfriend, saying, “He’s proud, composed, and well-mannered. He’s good enough for you.”

He does little things for her in the name of love. He listens with interest. He makes coffee for her, buying the beans from a speciality store that’s far from his apartment. He thinks of her safety, taking her home or ordering a cab for her when he can’t, and guiding her through the snow-covered pavements. He matches her gait so she doesn’t tire out easily. More importantly, he doesn’t interfere with her snooker training. He has her practice in his private pool room at Groovetown Jack Billiard Club, and teaches her a thing or two. Towards the series’ end, he gifts her the apartment in Finland where they stayed together earlier in their relationship.

A move that sends shockwaves through the Chinese tournament delegates is when Yiyang breaks his 11-year-old rule of not attending snooker tournaments and playing snooker. He watches Yin Guo’s match live. Earlier in the series, busy with school and running his billiards room, he plays a game for a classmate in exchange for the classmate buying Yin Guo a meal.

His marriage proposal to Yin Guo is expected, since he has said that she’s the one, the compass of his life. In episode 19, he has his compass necklace engraved with Yin Guo’s name, which the engraver mistakes for his daughter’s name. It’s my wife’s name, he tells the engraver.

With his usual flair for grand gestures, he serenades her—he learns to play guitar in 70 days—before asking her to marry him. It’s a fairytale ending: She says yes, naturally.

Polar opposites Lu Rang and Zai Zai find themselves drawn to each other in ‘When I Fly towards You.’ (Image from Netflix)

Sang Zhi’s secret crush on Jia Xu turns into mutual love years after in ‘Hidden Love.’ (Image from @chenzheyuan.czy)

Rang is a revelation as a green-flag boyfriend. (Image from @zhouyiran.official)

A romantic relationship is like dancing the tango. One needs a partner who knows the moves. Tellingly, Lu Rang, Jia Xu, and Yiyang have green-flag girlfriends. Zai Zai, Sang Zhi, and Yin Guo are caring, understanding, and not vindictive when faced with their love rivals (their boyfriends are popular with the women). Far from the stereotyped petty and jealous girlfriends, there are no melodramatic confrontations or histrionic outbursts. They just calmly—and sternly—assert they’re the girlfriends. Conversely, the jilted accept the truth with quiet dignity.

Tellingly, nurturing as the women are, they are their own persons: Zai Zai is making a go of her corporate career; Sang Zhi is a budding web illustrator: Yin Guo is a champion snooker player.

Romance is wonderful as it is demanding, given Cupid’s fickleness, and, thus, lovers have to be in sync to make it work. It bodes well when the boyfriend is a green flag; it gets better if he’s matched by a green-flag girlfriend who’ll earnestly hold up the other end of the relationship.

Granted, Lu Rang, Jia Xu, and Yiyang are fictional, but they do give a clear picture of the red and green flags in choosing a partner.

About author


She has clocked years of overseas work and living. On the second year of the pandemic she returned and settled back in the Philippines after 20 years.

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