He was extremely underwhelming on release. With your old e, you had to decide, did you want to create a steele or go for your shield? With a 5 sec cd between each, that will lower your DPS or survivability. He had terrible damage percentages, but that’s not that big of an issue since you weren’t using him as a DPS. He had no poise when using his e, so if you get hit once, you’d get knocked back. Than overall, they just buffed his damage numbers.
And you know, there was also a cultural backlash, since Liyue takes on heavy Chinese influences. This led to them associating China with Liyue. When the god of Liyue is seen as weak, that can be seen as an insult.