In the past couple of years, China has seen an explosion of "virtual people". Luxury brands have used artificial intelligence avatars to influence tech-savvy youths; social media platforms have offered users virtual doppelgangers; and celebrities have augmented their fan base in a pandemic world with digital icons.
Tianyu was born and bred to become a class apart. Zheng joined the studio last September and started preparations to create her. In three months, Tianyu was ready to make heads turn. The formal public launch happened on April 22. Within a month of going online, she was on the Douyin hot list.
The digital avatar inspired by Dunhuang flying Apsaras is unique in many ways. The glow on her face, the dark eyebrows, the exquisite mouth and the peach blossom makeup are not merely coincidental, but the result of expert-level research on how women of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) prepped for public appearances.
Female figurines from the dynasty unearthed in Turpan, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, are behind Tianyu's fetching beauty. Even the floral stone and pearl tassel hairpins are based on historical data as are her bejeweled clothes.
A leading "lady" on Douyin, Tianyu has 2.25 million fans, with more than 10 million likes for her videos. The clips, which last from less than a minute to two minutes, tell stories that Tianyu gathered from different pieces of a mural where she was from.