Illustration by Matt Chessco

    Often called “China’s most mysterious vlogger,” Li Ziqi grew up in rural Sichuan province, China. After a few years working in the city, she moved back to Pingwu County to care for her grandmother and soon started recording videos of her life there. Since her first video hit YouTube in 2017, she has amassed an impressive 16 million subscribers and over 2.4 billion views of her channel. When she started out, it was just Li and a tripod. As her artistic vision became more focused and her videos more popular, she enlisted the help of a videographer and assistant to frame, shoot, and edit her uniquely calming content. Breathtaking views of misty mountains blanketed in thick forest set the stage for videos of Li harvesting and preparing vegetables from the garden to cook dinner, picking flowers to craft a delicate crown, building a clay oven with her own two hands, and a myriad of other tedious tasks done patiently and well.

    Li has said herself that she’s just filming her life, or an idealized version of the life she wants—and she makes skilled, physical work look so satisfying and serene that we want it too. Her videos, captured in dreamy soft focus and accompanied by calming music and ambient nature sounds, provide an escape from the cacophony of contemporary city living. This ASMR-adjacent steadiness and tranquility are purposeful: Li wants to help people relax and relieve stress while educating urban dwellers about where their food comes from, and her videos both comfort and entice viewers with their ethereal and idyllic presentation of rural life in China.