The8 of Seventeen: how Chinese K-pop star went from martial arts student to performer, fashion icon and TV celebrity

As the K-pop industry continues to grow overseas, China has become an important market – not only for its sheer number of potential fans but also as a source of new idols.
As a Chinese member of one of the largest and biggest-selling boy bands today in Seventeen, The8 has been important not only in helping the K-pop industry grow, but also showing that its stars can come from any background. From his early days studying martial arts and dance to eventually becoming a songwriting fashion icon and TV star, get to know about The8’s multifaceted journey so far.
Xu Minghao was born in Anshan, in China’s Liaoning province, in November 1997. An only child, Xu grew up practising kung fu and wushu from the age of five. His ambitions to become a star were rooted in his love for reality-TV and variety shows.
He appeared in several of these shows as a child, and competed in dance competitions, before eventually moving to South Korea to pursue his dream of superstardom.
He trained for a year-and-a-half under Pledis Entertainment, the K-pop label that launched acts such as Son Dam-bi, After School and Nu’est, as a future member of the long-awaited boy band Seventeen.
The group held regular live-stream broadcasts for fans from 2013, with Xu first introduced as part of the act in 2014.
Ahead of the boy band’s official debut in May, 2015, Minghao decided on using the stage name The8, the reason being that the number eight is lucky in Chinese culture and if you turn an “8” on its side it represents an infinity symbol.
The8 is known as a lead dancer, and also provides vocals and rapping.
With 13 members in Seventeen, the outfit is split into three subgroups: the vocal team, the hip-hop team and the performance team with The8 a member of the performance team with Hoshi, Dino and Jun, who is also from China.
Seventeen have stood out in the K-pop industry for producing, writing and choreographing their work.
The8 has contributed lyrics for several of Seventeen’s best loved songs over the years, such as Highlight and Without You, as well as the Chinese versions of singles Oh My! and Home.
In addition to contributing lyrics to the Chinese versions of Seventeen songs, The8 has played an integral part in his boy band reaching new audiences in China’s large music market.
The8 has taken part in TV programmes such as 2018’s music reality show Chao Yin Zhan Ji and was a dance coach on the super-popular singing competition Idol Producer 2 alongside singer Jolin Tsai.
Recently, The8 has shown improved musical skills with the release of his 2019 solo song Dreams Come True as well as Falling Down in 2020, both of which he helped write and produce. The Chinese-language tracks came with choreographed videos that showed his artistic, modern dance styles.
More introverted than the other members of Seventeen, The8 continues to be recognised for his strong work ethic and growing talents.
In late 2017 when Seventeen released their second full-length album, Teen Age, Pledis Entertainment revealed that The8 had been experiencing back pain and was not able to participate in activities requiring long periods of sitting down, such as fan meet-and-greets and album signings. Yet The8 still wanted to take part in live performances and promoting their albums.
While The8 has said that he is not very confident with the Korean language, he still has done solo TV appearances as well as hosting and MC work in South Korea, showing his determination to explore new areas.
Meanwhile, The8 is also increasingly becoming known for his good taste in photography, art and fashion. If you are one of his millions of followers on Instagram, you will be treated to loads of beautiful photographs and paintings created by the singer himself.
The8 has also become a go-to model for fashion magazines, with unique looks that often push gender norms.
As the infinity symbol in his stage name suggests, The8 wants to show the world his varied talents as an artist – and he hopes this creates a deeper bond with his fans.
“From modern dance that I started learning recently to pictures, paintings, dance, songs and fashion, I’m planning to show eve…