A cross-dresser playing role of Xiao Long Nu (Dragon Lady) in the game Legend of the Condor Heroes attracted lots of attention during the country's biggest game fair, ChinaJoy, which closed in Shanghai yesterday.
The 20-year-old Haoge, who only identifies himself with this one nickname, is a weiniang, a "fake lady" or cross-dresser, who often adopts the dress or manner or role of the opposite sex.
A cross-dresser (R) playing role of Xiao Long Nu (Dragon Lady) in the game Legend of the Condor Heroes attracted lots of attention during the country's biggest game fair, ChinaJoy.
"It's my way to show the love for the characters," said Haoge, who came from Wuhan of Hubei Province to attend the China Digital Entertainment Expo and Conference, or ChinaJoy, held in the Pudong New Area.
"Most of them are female characters," he added.
Haoge now is the director of Alice Weiniang Group, which consists of 12 weiniangs or male cross-dressers in Wuhan. It's the most famous weiniang group on China's mainland.
While many in society still regard weiniang as a perversion, they have slowly gained popularity on China's mainland among people who have an open attitude and aesthetic concept, according to the fair visitors and sociologists.
During the game fair, Haoge played the role of Tifa, a popular female character in the console game Final Fantasy, on Friday.
During the weekend, he played the role of Xiao Long Nu, also a major female character of the popular kung fu novel the Legend of the Condor Heroes, invited by the game firm Perfect World.
Better than real girls
Haoge, surrounded by fans and photographed by dozens of visitors, was even more popular than the bikini-clad showgirls surrounding in the Perfect World booth.
The Alice group has many online fans, including about 4,000 fans in its own online community on Baidu. Haoge himself has almost 14,000 followers on Sina Weibo.
Sara, one of the fans, came from Jiangsu Province to attend ChinaJoy and see Haoge face-to-face.
"He is beautiful during role playing, even more beautiful than real girls," Sara said.
Some companies and televisions have invited them to attend programs and shows. Each of them can get from 500 yuan (US$78) to 1,500 yuan every day on average during a commercial performance, Haoge told Shanghai Daily in an exclusive interview.
China is still conservative toward cross-dressing and often links it to LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) issues.
Haoge is straight but there are gays in the Alice group. "Even if they are gays, so what, in this society?" he said.
Haoge admitted that he had faced pressure from parents, friends and schools since he started cross-dressing three years ago. After some "tough" conversations, he said he was better understood by his parents, most friends and his girlfriend, though she is "not willing to join me during performances."
Gu Xiaoming, a sociologist and Fudan University professor, said, "It's natural for everyone to want to play a character of the opposite gender in the sub-conscious."
Cross-dressing is more of a form of self-expression, rather than an indicator of sexual orientation or gender identification, such as in Peking Opera, Gu said.
Wang Peiyu of the Tianjin Peking Opera company, a female performer of male opera roles, once said, "I never really thought about my gender when I was performing."
Haoge said he spent about an hour preparing clothes and make-up for cross-dressing in nearby hotels, before going to ChinaJoy.
He said a professional weiniang should be thin, with long legs, relatively white skin, able to afford the clothes and good at cosmetics.