I am a westerner, not an Asian, so I really have no clue how the Chinese perceive beauty and what “ideal” beauty standards they have. I see all Chinese women to be very beautiful and very sweet looking, I have no way to tell who is more beautiful than others- through Chinese eyes.
Of course, as a western woman, I’m very aware how my culture judges beauty. But aside that narrow ideal we see in the magazines and on the TV, there is also a broader appreciation of many body types.
For example, we will always admire the classical Renaissance archetype of Venus, with her curvy body that bespeaks of fertility, motherhood, and softness.
Westerners also admire a toned, athletic body-shape, which appears sporty, modern, and outgoing. So, in the West, I would conclude that although there is a strong sense of what we class as “ideal”, it’s a little forgiving and allows for a wider range of body-types and stereotypes.
China, however, is a different story, as I’m told. The Chinese “ideal” has a pretty strict prototype.
These three young Chinese grew up in the West, but have frequently visited China. In this video they share a candid conversation with us about the perception of beauty in America and China. It’s quite fascinating to learn of the cultural contrasts that still exists in these modern times.
Beauty standards China vs America
In China, almond shaped eyes are more appealing than eyes that are narrow slits. Chinese girls go to great lengths to make their eyes appear larger and more open like westerners, such as fake lashes, eyelid tape, contact lenses, and eyelid surgery. A double eyelid is preferred to the single eyelid, and plastic surgery is performed to remove excess skin, making a crease.
In America, the single, heavier eyelid in general, makes the person look more exotic; with a Eurasian or Spanish appeal. It’s not seen as a bad thing at all.
In China, pointy noses that have a taller ridge are viewed in better light, as opposed to a flat nose; but it shouldn’t be too big.
In America, small button noses are also appreciated, but a stronger profile is also not bad thing.
In China, small “cherry lips” are considered pretty. If you have big lips, you might be nick-named “sausage lips”.
In America, it’s the opposite. Large, plump lips, that you can really pout are an attractive and sensuous feature of the face. In the west, it is also believed that large lips are a sign of a generous heart, whereas thin lips signify being mean and tight with money.
In China, overly sculpted cheek bones are not seen as beautiful, they are not a feature that the Chinese want to bring too much attention. In fact, plastic surgery is performed to minimize cheek bones that are too high.
Westerners, on the other hand think highly defined cheek bones look really sculpted. Westerners often comment, “Wow, look at her chiselled face…look at her bone structure”. You really know where to put your blush, when you’ve got high cheek bones!
In China, the ideal face shape is a heart shape, that comes to a very small point at the chin, absolutely no double chin, or fat on the face. Moon faces are not seen as beautiful in China.
In America, symmetrical faces are highly valued. Movie stars are considered so attractive because no matter what shape their face is, it’s very balanced.
In China, a porcelain skin color is highly prized. There is a huge market for skin moisturisers and toners that literally bleach the skin, making it paler.
In America, women who have a healthy tan are considered prettier because it suggests a lifestyle of fun, activity, and outdoor adventures, which is very appealing in the west, especially in beach-side places.
Beauty is cultural
I see that in both cultures people are trending away from their own natural looks. White people are trying hard to be browner, whereas Chinese are trying to adopt many of the features that come naturally to westerners.
Also, do you ever notice how people always seem to regard what is different or foreign as being beautiful? If you have curly hair you want straight.
The difference in aesthetic preferences between the two cultures, of eastern and western, are stark. This clash has been illustrated many times when Asian models work in Europe they are very popular, but when they return to Asia, they are regarded as common, or even as “ugly”.
If you can take anything away from this discussion it might be that beauty may only be a social and cultural construct; beauty also changes over the ages, as it goes in and out of style.
The thing is not to get too hung up about “ideals” when it comes to your looks; the people who exist within these ideals have won a “genetic lottery”, that’s odds are almost 1 billion to one! Take it from Cameron Russell: “Looks aren’t everything, believe me, I’m a model.”