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ZhongTao is the het ship between Zhongli and Hu Tao from the Genshin Impact fandom.

Canon

Both Hu Tao and Zhongli work at Wangsheng Funeral Parlor as its director and most revered consultant, respectively.

Hu Tao mentioned Zhongli in her character's teaser ("Hu Tao: Scared Yet?"), nicknaming him the "walking encyclopedia". Hu Tao also mentioned Zhongli in Part I Act I of her Story Quest (Papilio Charontis Chapter).

Zhongli mentioned Hu Tao in the third part of Archon Quest Chapter I Act III, referring to her as "Director Hu". Zhongli also wrote in a message on Wangshu Inn Bulletin Board that he should get back to Wangsheng Funeral Parlor after the rain stopped, otherwise Hu Tao may come there to drag Zhongli back herself.

In Hu Tao's Story 2, Zhongli is mentioned to be the person who Hu Tao trusts the most. Hu Tao and Zhongli also have voicelines about each other.

As seen in Character Tales - "Zhongli: An Additional Expense" video, Zhongli has a habit of spending Wangsheng Funeral Parlor's money, so to some extent, Zhongli relies on Hu Tao's financial support.

It could be said that Zhongli was the one who gave rise to the Wangsheng Funeral Parlor at the first place. In the past, Zhongli has killed many gods throughout his conquests in order to make the world more hositable for humanity and unifying the conquered lands into what would later become the country of Liyue. The gods who were killed would later return and causing much griefs and sufferings for the people through various means, one of which was unleashing contagious and deadly diseases, and from that arose the predecesor of Wangsheng Funeral Parlor who tried their best to contain the diseases, partially contributing to cleaning up the aftermaths of the Archon War.

Hu Tao and Zhongli share similar color schemes - dark brown and black colored clothes which blend elements of traditional Chinese and modern Western costumes. Their physical bodies also share several resemblances, such as being among the few characters whose eyes possess exotic pupils, both wear red eyeliners and both of them also possess long, brown hair with gradient color. The hairstyle of Hu Tao's bangs and sidelocks is also almost identical to Zhongli's (Zhongli's bangs pointing to the right while Hu Tao's bangs pointing to the left).

Both Hu Tao and Zhongli are five stars polearm characters, and the damage dealt by their attacks also scales with the total amount of their HP.

Gameplay-wise, the Hu Tao and Zhongli combo make a very good team composition:

Thanks to Hu Tao's HP burn mechanic as well as major damage boost when she's low in HP, Hu Tao could and should constantly be in a state of low HP to achieve peak performance. Because of that, most healers don't work well with Hu Tao as their healing can reduce her damage. Hence this is when characters with shield support come into play, and Zhongli is generally considered to be the best tank and shield bot in the game at the time this entry was first written.

Because of that, people also attribute intimacy to their respective roles in combat, with Zhongli as the solid enabler and defender of the reckless and suicidal Hu Tao.

Quote

“Zhongli looks young, but his personality is a bit dusty. Knows everything, but doesn't fret over anything. Hmm... Couldn't be that he's a...Hehe, forget it, whatever.”
— Hu Tao's Voiceline about Zhongli
“The current overseer of the funeral parlor? Ahem. I cannot deal with that child.”
— Zhongli's Voiceline about Hu Tao
“I should be getting back to the Wangsheng Funeral Parlor after the rain stops, otherwise Director Hu may come drag me back herself.”
— Zhongli's message on the Wangshu Inn Bulletin Board
“I'm afraid I must leave now to handle things back at Wangsheng Funeral Parlor. I hope that Director Hu has been able to keep things under control for the moment.”
— Zhongli's dialogue in third part of Archon Quest Chapter I Act III
“Though that walking encyclopedia Zhongli would no doubt have a completely different explanation...”
— Hu Tao's dialogue in Character Teaser - "Hu Tao: Scared Yet?"
“Oh, you know Zhongli? Well! That saves me a lot of explaining.”
— Hu Tao's dialogue in first part of Hu Tao Story Quest Act I
“It would be best not underestimate someone as whimsical as her. However, should you enjoy surprises, then I believe a visit is in order.”
Zhongli's remark in Hu Tao's introduction on official twitter as well as forum

Fanon

This ship appeared shortly after Hu Tao's model was leaked, when very little was known about Hu Tao's relationships beside voicelines, dialogues and memos of various characters about her. Since Hu Tao is Zhongli's boss at Wangsheng Funeral Parlor, Zhongli was assumed to have a relationship with Hu Tao.

The ZhongTao ship is generally seen as an example of the common "tall boyfriend x short/petite girlfriend couple" motif in films, mangas, animes, light novels .etc - in the same vein as the Chilumi ship.

People generally find the dynamics of their relationship to be entertaining, or at least comedic. Considering that Zhongli (as Morax) is an extremely popular and respected deity gifted with exceptional strength and abilities whose contributions are unrivaled in Liyue, yet he works as a mere employee of an eccentric young human lady.

Zhongli usually forgets to bring money with him and also canonically spends mora of the Funeral Parlor at his discretion, meanwhile Hu Tao has the final say when it comes to the budget of Wangsheng, so Zhongli is occasionally depicted as relying on Hu Tao to fund his spending spree - similar to the fanon depictions of the relationship between Zhongli and Tartaglia (aka Childe), but to a much lesser extent.

Hu Tao is often portrayed as the dominant/assertive one in their relationship, which is one of the major appeals of this ship. Having a whimsical human girl pranking and bullying the solemn Geo God of Liyue who is helpless against her for some reason - gap moe and hilarity ensues.

It’s also quite common for people to view and portray Hu Tao & Zhongli as found family.

One of the more frequently employed themes of the Hu Tao x Zhongli ship is the opposite of the romantic comedy theme mentioned above: angst, and it's partly thanks to the nature of Hu Tao's and Zhongli's jobs (as well as their associated connotations) at the Wangsheng Funeral Parlor.

From its inception, Hu Tao/Zhongli ship has spawned one of the most user-generated contents (fan arts, memes...) in total among all of ships which involve Hu Tao.

It should be noted that Hu Tao playerbase overlaps big time with Zhongli playerbase, so it's expected that those players would feel attached to those two characters, as well as tolerating the relationship between them.

All and all, Hu Tao and Zhongli are considered to complement each other very well, whether in gameplay or lore.

Fandom

FAN FICTION

Hu Tao/Zhongli tag on AO3
Hu Tao & Zhongli tag on AO3

TWITTER

ZhongTao hashtag on Twitter

PIXIV

胡鍾 (HuZhong) tag on Pixiv
往生堂組 (Wangsheng Funeral Parlor) tag on Pixiv
Hu Tao and Zhongli tag on Pixiv

Trivia

  • On April Fools' day 2021, Genshin Impact's Twitter quote-reweeted a video clip which features Hu Tao and Zhongli. Hu Tao also replaced Paimon as the spokeperson of Genshin Impact's Twitter that day.
  • Zhongli, Hu Tao and Qiqi are featured on one of the Moonlight Merriment (Moonchase) event official arts published on Mihoyo's Chinese forum.
  • According to Hu Tao Story 3, Hu Tao said that she was hurrying to a heart-to-heart with a Statue of the Seven - which was most likely one of the Rex Lapis Statues of the Seven in Liyue, after Hu Tao stopped visiting the stone lions which she used to play with.
  • Both Zhongli and Hu Tao love to drink tea, based on depictions in several different medias, materials, as well as Hu Tao's voiceline.
  • Zhongli wields the Staff of Homa - a polearm owned by Hu Tao - in both Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 of his story quest, as well as in the trial test run of his banner rerun.
  • It could be said that in a way, Zhongli's occupation prior to his job at Wangsheng Funeral Parlor also partly resembling the job of Hu Tao as well as funeral ceremony in general.
    • Zhongli was known to bury the gods and entities who were his adversaries deep underground, using his gigantic stone spears (among them are the mountain-sized rock pillars which we can see at Guyun Stone Forest) - such extraordinary feats are reminiscent of the burial activities in funerals.
  • Zhongli's Archon/god name is Morax, which is the name of a demon ruler in hell.
    • Hu Tao also has hell as one of her main themes, namely her role as the keeper of the border which separating the worlds of the dead and the livings, moreover her constellation is named "Papilio Charontis", which means the butterfly of Charon - the ferryman who transports deceased people to the afterlife in Greek mythologies.
      • Hence Zhongli and Hu Tao both possess underworld/afterlife themes and motifs, not to mention their jobs at the funeral parlour literally help guiding the dead to the afterlife.
  • Based on volume 3 of Customs of Liyue book series and the third part of Chapter I, Act II of Farewell, Archaic Lord Archon Quest, "Three Poignant Perfumes", Rex Lapis is heavily associated with Silk Flower, to the point that Silk Flower has become one of the many symbols of Rex Lapis. Many strains of Silk Flowers have been created and are often attributed to Rex Lapis by the merchants. Different types of Silk Flowers also provide materials to produce many types of perfumes, of which the most luxurious being offered first and foremost to Rex Lapis for his approval. As seen in the Archon Quest, under the instruction of Zhongli, the Traveler has offered different types of perfumes to the (supposedly) deceased Rex Lapis, all of which were made from Silk Flower.
    • Hu Tao is also associated with Silk Flower since it's her ascension materials and her title is "Fragrance in Thaw" which alluding to the scent of perfumes.
      • Hence Silk Flowers and perfumes serve as both material and symbolic connections between Hu Tao and Zhongli.
  • Based on the descriptions of the Adeptus Gate, Zhongli is heavily associated with that furnishing - Rex Lapis set up the first Adeptus Gates in history, and Zhongli at the present time is known for his effort of trying to rectify misconceptions of people regarding the Adeptus Gate. Meanwhile, based on Hu Tao's Story 3 and the descriptions of Stone Lion Statue: The Warding, Hu Tao is associated with that furnishing. Hu Tao used to play with a pair of stone lions in front of the main gate of the Ministry of Civil Affairs, and also regularly showing up around them to play some pranks.
    • Both Adeptus Gate and Stone Lion Statue: The Warding are known for their ability of scaring away evils, which parallels the activities of Zhongli and Hu Tao in eliminating the forces of evil that threaten Liyue Harbor.
  • In one of Zhongli's promotional videos named "Genshin Impact EP - The Divine Stone Sees the World", near the end of the video, Zhongli returned to Liyue Harbor where he, amidst the falling ginkgo leaves, standing a short distance from Wangsheng Funeral Parlor which is the workplace of him and Hu Tao, then the song Maiden's Longing began playing...

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