The Evolution of East Asian Entertainment

Updated: Sep 22, 2020

From the 80s till present day, we've seen a wave of entertainment trends span from Hong Kong, Taiwan to Japan and Korea. Here's a short summary of what we've seen and possibly what's to come.

Hong Kong's 4 Heavenly Kings

Recently did a presentation of the evolution of Asian popular culture in East and South East Asia, hence this share of evolving fandom. Many countries in the above-mentioned regions are diverse but share similar aspects in their culture, which I shan't delve deep in.

Just as how the US and UK had their glorious 80s', so did Hong Kong and Taiwan. They first introduced the concept of the Four "Heavenly Kings" (四大天王) in Hong Kong, referring to the top 4 male superstars, namely Aaron Kwok, Andy Lau, Leon Lai and Jacky Cheung (top image from left to right), who aced in every aspect of Chinese speaking entertainment from singing to acting. Taiwan, on the other hand, had the Four Little "Heavenly Kings", with Tommy Su (now Alec Su), Nicky Wu, Jimmy Lin and Takeshi Kaneshiro (bottom photo from left to right), most of whom are currently active mainly in China.

Taiwan's 4 Little Heavenly Kings

Later in the 90s, with the rising popularity of anime and Jpop, the eclectic fashion and style of Japanese artists built an ardent fan following. From boy bands like SMAP, and Arashi to girl bands like Morning Musume (bottom image) and SPEED. From solo artists, Ayumi Hamasaki, Utada Hikaru and Namie Amuro to J-rock bands, X-Japan, Glay and L’Arc-en-ciel, there was literally a niche following for everyone. Japanese artists continue to own that niche space with their creativity and originality.

Jpop Girl Group Morning Musume

K-pop joined the party in the 2000s with Lee Soo Man, founder of SM Entertainment, who introduced BoA and TVXQ not only in Korea, but in Japan, that led to their popularity traveling all throughout Asia and amongst Asians residing outside of Asia. The baton was passed on to a long line of artists from BigBang, Super Junior, Girls’ Generation, 2NE1, EXO and the list goes on. People have long speculated the end of Kpop’s long reign, but with BTS and TWICE growing global popularity, Kpop is showing no signs of stopping, at least from a content creation perspective.

So what’s next after Kpop? Thai pop has long been touted by industry folks to be the next big trend, but little is done for its growth to exponentially increase globally. In recent times, Philippines and China have caught up significantly in terms of quality, but still, it remains to be seen who the clear winner is. Who do you think will create the next pop culture trend?

Image sources: 1(a), (b), (c), (d), 2 (a), (b), (c), (d), 3, 4 (a), (b), (c), (d), (e)