April 15, 2010

CHINA: Classic Chinese beauty needs no surgeon's scalpel

. SHANGHAI, China / Shanghai Daily / Opinion / Foreign Perspectives / April 15, 2010 By Nicole Nieraad Schalke AN ancient Chinese beauty had to combine at least four characteristics: light skin, a petite body, delicate appearance and well-proportioned features. To be really beautiful, it was also important to be warmhearted and friendly, with peaceful gestures and a calm facial expression. But today China's opening to the Western world, the explosion of economic growth and the loosening of social controls of the past few years have led to a more physical, superficial beauty ideal - and to a growing preoccupation with how people look. Fair, velvety skin has been a symbol of beauty and femininity for most of the time in Chinese history. Furthermore today white skin not only represents wealth and an easy desk job but also (allegedly) improves job and marriage chances. A vast amount of advertisements in TV or magazines with pictures of pale movie stars and models emphasize this beauty ideal. Therefore most young women in China's cities try everything to avoid catching the sun's rays - and do not flinch from looking quite funny. In summertime they protect themselves with cute umbrellas, big hats, huge sunglasses, gloves, long sleeves or at least makeshift capes that come down to their wrists: tanned skin is evil and sunlight the enemy. So instead of tinted moisturizer or self-tanning lotion, the shelves of Chinese drugstores are filled overwhelmingly with but cosmetics promising a whitening effect. Pale skin The costly products vary from creams and cleansing lotion to deodorants for white underarms and are exclusively sold in Asia. In addition to pale skin, the modern Chinese beauty ideal tends more and more towards Western looks. Children from Asian-Western marriages are especially regarded as extraordinarily pretty. Big, round eyes, a high nose and long legs are the most-wanted parts of a modern female body. Therefore, it's no surprise that plastic surgery is increasingly common in the Chinese middle class, especially among job seekers who hope a good-looking appearance will help them in interviews. The most popular body modifications are cutting a double eyelid and raising the height of the nose, as well as chiseling angular faces into the shape of goose eggs: everything is aimed to create smoother lines, softer curves and symmetrical features. While in the West, dimples are just a cute facial oddity, in Asia they suggest good fortune and fertility, hence surgery that creates a dimple is also in high demand. Probably the most expensive, dangerous and painful procedure (in addition to breast augmentation) is leg-lengthening. Hundreds of thousands of yuan will be paid to doctors to break the legs and get steel pins inserted in the bones: Typically for an 8-centimeter extension - and legs covered with scars. Based on this whole hype, a special beauty contest for women who had cosmetic surgery was initiated in 2004, "Miss Artificial Beauty." Wasp waist Zhang Xiaomei, president of a popular fashion newspaper, pleads for returning to the poetical original beauty: faces shaped like watermelon seeds or goose eggs, cherry lips, eyes like peach blossoms (long, corners slightly curved upward), wasp waists and a white skin that gently blushes with excitement. On the other hand, the original exotic and mysterious Chinese looks have become more and more popular outside of Asia. Miss World of 2007 was Zhang Zilin from Hebei Province. Chinese beauties like the supermodel Du Juan have arrived on international cat walks and seem to replace previous Brazilian and Russian model types: Chinese reserve, elegance and purity are the latest fashion trend, seen at New York Fashion Week and London Fashion Week 2010. Also, successful movie stars like Gong Li and Lucy Liu represent international admiration for Asian appearances. Fortunately, ethnic diversity makes the world even more beautiful. [rc] Nicole Nieraad Schalke is a freelancer in Shanghai. Copyright © 2001-2008 Shanghai Daily Publishing House