BEAUTY, HEIGHT, HAIRSTYLES AND WHITE SKIN IN CHINA

BEAUTY IN CHINA

20080226-sing sing girl 19th century bound feet u wash.jpg
Sing song girl in the 1890s
with bound feet
In a 1997 survey by the Leo Burnett ad agency 73 percent of Chinese agreed that a youthful appearance was important, compared to 35 percent of Americans.

In China, large eyes, a small nose and petite frame are all regarded as attractive on a woman. Small eyes, large lips, freckles, a flat nose and high cheek bones are all considered unattractive. The ideal beauty has wide, bright eyes and a face "shaped like a goose egg or sunflower seed.” Sichuan women are regarded as the most beautiful in China.

Asia wide, round eyes, a small, sharp, turned nose with tiny nostrils, firm medium-size breasts or large breasts and long legs are considered attractive for women. Many of the models on television and in magazines have large round eyes. Sharp facial features, a tall body and long legs are considered attractive for men.

Many Asian men consider the nape of a woman's neck to be sensual and arousing. Asians tend to have short eyelashes. Cosmetics companies translate this as meaning that Asia has the potential to be a big market for mascara. Aspiring flight attendants are taught how to do a perfect eight-tooth smile with a chopstick between their teeth.

Early mirrors were made of bronze and their backs were often inscribed with figures that brought good luck and dispelled demons. Bronze mirrors were not replaced by glass mirrors until the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). In China mirrors are seen as metaphors of self-examination. A wise person always carries three mirrors: one for seeing the inner self; one for seeing the past; and a bronze one for seeing physical appearance. Old Chinese stories often feature magic mirrors. In the tale of Yin Zhongwen a man is executed shortly after he looks into a mirror and doesn't see his reflection.

Etiquette classes for young women teach students to walk with books balanced on their heads and pieces of paper squeezed between their knees. A perfect smile with six to eight exposed teeth is achieved by practicing in front of a mirror with chopsticks placed between the teeth.

Links in this Website: COSMETIC SURGERY IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; COSMETICS IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; BEAUTY IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; FOOT BINDING Factsanddetails.com/China ; Good Websites and Sources: China Vista chinavista.com ; Feel in China is a blog with some articles on beauty in China feelinchina.com ;

What is Beauty?

20080226-woman having her hair done u wash.jpg
Qing-era young woman
What makes a person beautiful or handsome is a question that has vexed those who thought about it for millennia. One set of studies shows that when people are shown a series of photographs of faces and a computer-generated composite of the face they prefer the composite. This finding backs a theory---first offered by Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin’that the more average a face is the more we find it attractive. But this theory has been questioned by more recent research that has shown that people prefer composites with certain exaggerated features such as high cheekbones and large eyes to a plain composite.

A 1994 study by David I. Perrett and Keith May of the University of St. Andrews and Sakko Yoshikawa of the Otemon Gakuin University in Japan, published in Nature, found that faces are regarded as inherently attractive regardless of culture or race. According to the study, subjects from Britain and Japan both preferred computer-generated faces of women with certain features such as large eyes, high cheekbones, thin jaws and a short distance between the nose and mouth and between the mouth and chin. It didn’t matter if the faces were Japanese or Caucasian. The features were generally ones associated with youthfulness and good health.

When asked why he though these features were deemed attractive Perrett told the Washington Post: “The adaptive value of these signals are likely to have to do with age, fertility and reproductive status.” Donald Simons , an anthropologist at the University of California in Santa Barbara added that a thin jaw and small lower face are associated with high levels of estrogen (the hormone of femaleness) and low levels of testosterone (the hormone of maleness). The beautiful face he said announces: “I am full of estrogen and free of testosterone,” which in turn says, “I am fertile.” But the problem with his theory is there is no evidence that estrogen or testosterone affect the bony structure of the face.

Looks Discrimination in China

20111124-asia obscura beach1.jpg
Chinese kawaii
Looks-based discrimination that affects hits women harder than men is said to be widespread in China. One Shanghai cosmetic surgery hospital estimated last year that half its customers were undergoing operations for career-related reasons. Most of those were women. [Source: Tania Branigan, The Guardian, October 28 2010]

Lu Ying, former director of the Gender center at Sun Yat-sen University, told The Guardian it was common for employers to pick out female candidates because they were prettier. "The effect of looks discrimination is much bigger for women than men. What makes it worse is that for women, the job opportunities are less than for men already," she said. "It is a very bad phenomenon. It is much worse when a government body does this because it will set a terrible example."

"Flower vases" is a Chinese idiom for women who are decorative but of little use. For a time the Hunan provincial government required women civil servants to have "symmetrical breasts." The requirement was dropped in 2004 after it was widely ridiculed. [Ibid]

Economists have noted the "beauty premium" in many places, but employment experts say it flourishes in China thanks to inadequate laws. A current advert for a sales assistant at the Zhengzhou Electric Bike Company requires a candidate with "a smile to topple the city" and even stipulates her vital statistics: 36-22.5-36. [Ibid]

Li Fangping, a lawyer who has handled many job discrimination cases, said: "In the current employment law it only says that opportunities should be open and equal to everyone. It does not directly point out that employers should not include criteria such as looks and height  it is too general to be implemented." [Ibid]

See Police

Height in China

20111102-Wiki com  Chang The Chinese Giant 1870.jpg
Chinese Giant in 1870
Height is very important in China. Being tall and having long legs are regarded as attractive for both men and women. Potential male and female partners are categorically dismissed if the are not tall enough. Contestants on television dating show often state their height before anything else. Many jobs require women to be over 1.6 meters tall. Even people applying for government jobs or university places are often rejected out of hand if they are under 1.5 meters.

The 7-foot-six basketball player Yao Ming and the 5-foot-10 supermodel Lu Yan are among the most famous people in China. Diplomats have to be at least 170 centimeters tall presumably to give the impression that China is not a land of shrimps. People who have tried to use anti-discrimination laws to fight being rejected on the basis of height have had their cases thrown out of court. If Deng Xiaoping were alive today he would have not even been accepted into the army. His 1.5 meters tall body is well under the 170 centimeter tall limit.

Personal ads in newspapers are often very specific about height requirements. One ad from the Shanghai Morning News, quoted in the New York Times, was taken out by a 162-centimeter-tall woman looking for a man who was at least 170 centimeters tall. Another was taken out by a 36-year-old, 176-centimeter-tall man who wanted to meet a 30-year-old woman who was at least 163 centimeters tall.

The average Chinese man is 5-foot-6 and the average Chinese woman is 5 feet 2. But Chinese are getting taller. The average Chinese child in six centimeters, or around two inches, taller than 30 years ago according to the Chinese Health Ministry. The increases have largely been attributed to improved health and nutrition.

With so much emphasis placed on tallness it is not surprising that there is a big market for elevator shoes and high heels in China. Street corner quacks hawk herbal tonics that promise to make people taller. Infomercials on television push exercise machines that emit infrared energy that is said to stimulate growth hormones.

Beauty in the Mao Era

right In the Mao era, people gave little thought to their appearance. Worrying about beauty was regarded as vain and decadent. Film actresses were more likely to wear sack-like clothes to cover their curves than sexy dresses that showed them off. One woman told the Los Angeles Times, “In those days, there was no such thing as beauty. Having breasts was shameful, so we made little tight bras to keep them hidden. Everything was about revolution.”

Beauty pageants were banned and the act of trying to look beautiful was often equated with prostitution. Women were encouraged to look ordinary. They wore sexless Mao suits as did the men. Things like make up and stocking were regarded as symbols of bourgeois decadence.

During the Cultural Revolution women were taught to conceal their femininity. They wore shapeless jackets and trousers and had their hair cut short. They could be beaten for wearing the slightest amount of lip stick or eye liner. Red Guards sometimes stopped women in the street whose hair was deemed too long and cut it.

See Cosmetics, Feminine Clothing in Mao Era

Beauty After the Mao Era

left With the end of the Mao era and dawn of the “Get Rich is Glorious” era, looking good has become desirable once again, even among the poor. The owner of a successful Chinese cosmetic company told AP, “All women want is to look pretty, and poorer women want it even more. Without good education or rich parents, appearance is what they count on to move up the social ladder.”

A consultant in the health and beauty business told the Los Angeles Times, “Before the economic reforms we weren’t getting enough food to eat, so we paid little attention to how we looked. Today we have enough to eat and we care a lot about how we look.”

An executive at L’Oreal told the Times of London. “Ten years ago it was difficult to identify who was a cute girl and who wasn’t. They all looked the same. But today they know how to make the most of themselves.”

Beauty Pageants in China

The Miss World beauty pageant was held at the tropical resort of Sanya on Hainan Island in December 2003. It was the first time an international beauty pageant was held in China. Before the event Shanghai held a Miss Ugly contest, with the winner getting $12,000 worth of cosmetic surgery.

Selection for the 2002 Miss Universe contest was held at an underground meeting that was broken up by authorities. Miss China traveled incognito to Puerto Rico, where the pageant was held, and finished as the second runner up.

In 2007, China won its first Miss World contest. Miss China Zhang Zi Lin, a 23-year-old Beijing secretary from the industrial city of Shijiazhuang, won the title in a contest held on Hainan Island. Chat lines lit up with praise for the newly-crowned beauty queen. Zhang’s blog received more than 1 million hits.

Beauty Contests and China

The Miss China Organization was established in 2001. All the administrative divisions of China and the national capital are represented, for a total of 34 delegates. The first ever Miss Universe China titleholder, Zhuo Ling, was selected in Guangdong province in March, 2002. She represented her country in Miss Universe 2002 and placed 2nd runner-up. Some reports claimed that the Chinese contest was shut down before voting took place by officials who mistakenly believed it was not licensed. However, Zhuo Ling, denied it and stated that 40 finalists from across China made it to the event. [Source: Wikipedia]

In July 2002, the Miss Universe license for China was awarded to Johnny Kao, a prominent Chinese-American entrepreneur and businessman.The organization held the Miss China Universe pageant for the next few years.

On January 6, 2011, the Miss Universe Organization official designated media icon and entrepreneur Yue-Sai Kan, as the official licensee for the People’s Republic of China. On July 10, 2011, the China National Pageant was held at the MasterCard Arena in Beijing (formerly the WukeBeijing Wukesong Culture & Sports Center) in which 32 contestants participated. The winner of the competition, Luo Zilin.

Miss China Finished 5th in the 2011 Miss Universe Contest

Miss China Luo Zilin was made it to the final five at the 60th Miss Universe contest in Sao Paolo, Brazil in September 2011 but ended up as the 4th runner up (5th place). Many Chinese though she had what it took to win. In response to her question---"Nude beaches are common in some parts of the world. Is public nudity appropriate or inappropriate and why?” "Every country has its rules and regulations and every country has their own habits as well. We should respect them and be more understanding." Some said her “too Chinese” response prevented her from doing better.

Before the Miss Universe contest Lou Zilin went to New York to undergo extensive training on how to become “less Chinese,” under the guidance of TV personality Yue-Sai Kan, national director of Miss Universe China. Will Pavia wrote in the Times of London, Yue-Sai Kan “took her young charge to her Upper West Side apartment four weeks ago and has since put her through lessons in English conversation, French table manners, samba, jazz and tap dancing as well as high-level socialising. ‘she has met Paul McCartney, Russell Simmons [the hip-hop artist],” she told The Times yesterday. “We were with Claire Danes for a screening of Homeland.” [Source: Will Pavia, Times of London, the Australian, August 20, 2011]

Kan said “When I say she’s too Chinese, I don’t mean to be negative. Too Chinese means they are very reserved,” she said. “When you compliment them, they put their hands over their mouth. They are not used to being assertive. Also, we have absolutely no culture of beauty pageants.” Ms Lou was already a successful model. “But they are just walking hangers,” said Ms Kan, who appears to have been extremely successful in overcoming any shyness she might have suffered. “They don’t have to say anything. They don’t have to express any emotions whatsoever.”

Lou told Forbes before the contest, “I’m excited and love what I’m doing, but it’s important to keep things in perspective. I understand that I am in a position to make a real impact on any number of important humanitarian causes, not only as a role model, but as a doer. And that responsibility stays with me whether I win or lose.” With the weight of China and its 1.3 billion populace, she said, “I don’t want to disappoint.”

Miss China After the 2011 Miss Universe Contest

Wall Street Journal’s Metropolis blog reported that after the contest Lou was eager to use her experience as a springboard to a future career in the America: Luo Zilin---or Rosaline, as the reigning Miss China prefers to be called in the U.S.---was set to walk in the Sherri Hill fashion show Wednesday, an event where the Kardashian sisters are expected to film an episode of their reality-TV series. Luo’s mentor, the Chinese beauty mogul and TV personality Yue Sai-Kan, sees the potential TV appearance as a launch pad to bigger and better things in America.

“First she will shoot with the Kardashians, then we will help her break into the U.S. market,” said Kan, the director of the Miss China program. “I would like to try to place her in some television shows, a magazine like Sports Illustrated and maybe something like Victoria’s Secret.”

As for Luo, her taste of life in the Big Apple has left her wanting more once her year-long obligation to be Miss China in her home country is complete. “I would like to get the chance to work in New York,” she said. “I have no regrets. There is more to come.”

Asian Skin, White Skin and Tans in China

20080226-ponds cream ad 1991 u wash.jpg
1990s Ponds skin cream ad
Many Asian women eschew the tanned sporty look and favor the white, frail look. Pale skin is considered beautiful and has traditionally been associated with sophistication and wealth while brown skin traditionally has been a sign of being poor and working outside in the sun. One 38-year-old Hong Kong public relations executive who spends hundred of dollar a month on face masks, scrubs and whitening creams told Reuters, “I love to be pearly white because that is more beautiful.”

Women often refuse to go out in the summer unless they have an umbrella, a makeshift cape or some other kind of skin protection. One 27-year-old accountant told the Times of London, “I prefer women with light skin. Westerners look healthy with bronzed skin, but Asians look dirty.”

Pregnant women have traditionally avoided soy sauce out of concern it might make their baby dark. Skin whitening products are a huge industry. Among the skin whiteners available in China are White Detox by Biotherm, Pure by Dior, Blanc Expert by Lancom and Derma White by Clinique.

The skin of Chinese women is denser and better quality than the skin of Western women. Chinese women tend to have skin that is free of blemishes and lines for ten years longer than Western women. When the ageing process begins it happens suddenly---with pre-auricular wrinkles developing vertically from the ears and an interocular line crossing horizontally between the eyes and wrinkles appearung on the chin.

In recent years dark skin has become a symbol of wealth---a sign that someone has enough money to take a beach vacation in place like Thailand. Honolulu or Spain---with models with sexy tans being featured in fashion magazines . The first tanning salon in Beijing opened in the city’s chic Jiawai Soho area in the mid 2000s. It is patronized mainly by young office ladies, who pay $12 for a ten minute session.

Models in China

The modeling business took off in China in the early 2000s. Models have been used to hawk everything from condominiums to soft drinks, from computers to cars.. Even towns and cities have hired models to represent them.

To be a model in China a woman needs to be tall and beautiful. Some who are simply tall think they have what it takes to be a model. A teacher at a modeling school told the Los Angeles Times, “Every year, I see at least 200 candidates from all over the country dying to be models. Their only qualification is height.”

One of the hottest models in the world in the early 2000s was Lu Yan, a 5-foot-10 small town Chinese girl regarded as exotic-looking in the West but considered ugly by many Chinese. She has appeared on the covers of Elle and Paris Match and modeled clothes for Dior, Gucci and Christian Lacroix. She told the Los Angeles Times, “I hated being tall as a kid. No one wanted to walk with me. They saw me as a weirdo.”

Lu Yan’s break came when she enrolled in a class to improve her posture. Her teacher was asked to put together a group for a modeling competition in Beijing. The teacher picked her because the group was one person short and they needed someone tall. Her team didn’t win but here usual look caught they eye of a fashion editor who introduced her to a French agent, who made her sensation within weeks.

Hair in China

20080226-buss-barber Nolls.jpg
modern sidewalk barber
Until early in the 20th century the traditional haircut for a Chinese man was the queue, or braided pigtail, with a shaved forehead. The queue had been forced on the ethnic Han majority as a sign of submission to their Qing Manchu rulers. In 1911, when the Qing dynasty ended, cutting off one’s queue was a symbol of defiance like burning a draft card was in the United States in the Vietnam War era.

Less than 20 percent of women dye their hair, compared to more than 60 percent in Japan and South Korea. Chinese are still a little bit nervous about coloring their hair. In Shanghai people with died hair can not have their identity card pictures taken. It is not uncommon for women with dyed hair to have long roots because of second thoughts they had after dying their hair.

Studies by L’Oreal have found that Chinese women usually wear their hair much longer than Western women. Average length for Chinese women in 50 centimeters. Researchers came across one woman with hair that was 4.3 meters long

Asian Hair

20080226-dyed hair.jpg
Dyed hair
Individual strands of Chinese women’s hair are circular and wider and more resistant to breaking than the oval hairs of Western women. Chinese hair has higher pigment concentrations that makes it glossier and shinier than the hair of Western women and less likely to turn white. Chinese hair is less dense than Western hair with fewer hairs per square centimeter of scalp.

When stripped of its natural pigment, Asian hair has reddish undertones while European hair has yellow-orange undertones. As a result hair dyes for Asian women are made with green that cancels out red while those for European women are made with violet that cancels out the yellow-orange undertones.

More than 150 million Chinese men aged 25 to 35, or about 40 percent of the male population in that age group, suffer from baldness or significant hair loss. Fast-paced living and long periods of stress are blamed for high rates of hair loss.

Many that have hair that goes grey or white prematurely dye it.

Beauty Shops and Barbers in China

20080226-outdoor barder u wash.jpg
19th century Sidewalk barber
The Chinese can be very fussy about their hair. Many towns and neighborhoods are full of beauty parlors. According to the China Association of Fragrance, Flavor and Cosmetic Industries, the number of beauty shops, barber shop and spas increased from about 100,000 in 1985 to 1.2 million in 2000. Prostitutes often work out of beauty parlors, hairdressers, and barbershops.

In some Chinese barbershops, barbers wearing surgical masks shave every inch of their customer's face: the hairline, earlobes, nose and even eyelids. Chinese beauty salons offer dry shampooing in which the hair is washed in the styling chair. A few drops of water are added to the hair and the scalp is rubbed and scratched for up to an hour to achieve a good head of lather.

In the Mao, the government told people how to wear their hair. During the Cultural Revolution women had their hair cut short and wore Mao-style caps, often looking more like boys than women. Some people indulged themselves. In the northeastern town of Dalian men as well as women had their hair curled at the "Red Star Cut and Perm."

In Beijing, Chinese tourists often get a quick haircut or a shave from a street barber before visiting a site like the Forbidden City because they want to look their best for photographs. Describing a shave by an outdoor barber in Beijing, Michael Finkel wrote in the New York Times: "Apparently, the Chinese have a dislike of facial hair. I received the shave of my life, which included a precise razoring if all the tiny hairs edging my ears, a freshly sharpened knife deftly applied by my eyelids (I'd been instructed to shut my eyes) and a full forehead defoliation. I think I was fortunate to escape with my eyebrows intact." [Source: Michael Finkel, New York Times, March 19, 2000]

Boutique spas in Shanghai offer 13 types of facials and a chocolate pedicure for $48.

Dry Shampoo and Cut

Describing a haircut at a reasonably nice salon in Beijing Liz Clarke wrote in the Washington Post, “With his white smock and pompadour, the Chinese hair cutter showed me an entirely new technique...From the list of sources printed in Mandarin and English, I had pointed to ‘shampoo and haircut.” Then I took a seat in the chair, expecting a consult. Instead he squirted a bottle of shampoo on my perfectly dry hair without dribbling a bit on my neck.”

”He worked the shampoo into a lather. Then he squirted more---enough shampoo, its seemed, to clean the Yangtze River...A mountain of suds in my hair, I was led to the sunk for a rinse. Then back in the chair for the cut. His hands were sure and deft despite the inch-long fingernails protruding from his pinkie fingers...I feel like a new woman now, with a crisp bob that falls just short of my shoulders. And the cost: 60 yuan---about $9.”

Wigs and Hair in China

20080226-uccting off queue in 1911 mclc.jpg
Cutting of the queue in 1911
China is one of the world’s largest exporters of wigs, toupees and hair pieces and one of the largest importers of hair. In 2002, it supplied the United States with 96 percent of the 10.7 tons of hair it imported. The same year China imported 3.3 tons of hair from India, most of it collected at temples where pilgrims have their head shaved as part of a purification ritual. That hair, regarded as the best in the world, is treated at about 200 hair processing plants in China and re-exported to the United States and Europe.

In the late 2000s there was an increase in demand for hair extensions in Japan, which in turn increased the demand and prices of hair in China. Japan imported 178 tons of hair, enough to make 3.56 million extensions, from China in 2007, up from 26 tons in 2002. Prices increased 50 percent alone between 2007 and 2008.

Juancheng County in southern Shandong Province is the center of the Chinese hair industry. There are 84 hair-related factories. Around 30,000 people are employed in the industry and one third of the county’s revenues come hair. In 2002 Juancheng launched the People’s Hair Scenery Festival. Xuchang County in Henan Province is another big wig producer. One large company there is listed on China’s stock market. Wigs sold in China are made silk, synthetic fibers or hair from peasant women in Tibet and Sichuan, who are paid $24 a kilogram fo their hair, and fashioned by Korean-made machines.

China has been exporting hair to the West since the 19th century. The practice continued in the Mao era and was the source of much of hair in 1960s when Jacky Kennedy set off a wig boom in the United States among women who wanted to imitate her look. As the wig boom subsided among white women in United States in the 1980s the slack was picked up by African and black American women who wanted hair for hair extensions, braids, weaves and curls.

Hair for Sale

Hair, often called “people’s fur,” is collected by some 40,000 dealers who scour the country for hair, sometimes making deals to purchase it from other countries. The dealers typically have agreements with hair shop owners. Some go directly to the source. In the hutongs in Beijing, vendors shout out “Looong haaaiir! Loooong haaaair! and pay $10 a pop for long pony tails and reject hair that is deemed too short. Long hair is particularly valuable because it can be used in expensive long hair wigs. Sometimes young women with long hair are paid to have it cut. The dealers sometimes hoard the hair and wait for prices to go up.

Describing a hair collection operation at a village in Shandong, Akiko Kano wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun, “A small, beat up truck trundled between poor households, blasting out warbling music. Suddenly a girl jumped in front of the truck, shouting, “stop!” She wore no make up and looked very young. On her head stood a great mass of black hair, arranged in a shape reminiscent of soft-serve ice cream. Her hair when undone, almost reached the ground. The driver got out of the truck and began to cut the girls’ hair with scissors. When he was done, he gave the girl a small amount of money. She was left with a rather masculine -looking hairstyle.”

Extensions worn in Japan wear out after three months of use. Hair grows around two centimeters a month. That means it takes about three years to grown hair that is 65 centimeters in length, the minimum wanted by hair brokers. Hair is often bleached and then dyed black or brown before it is processed or exported.

Tattoos in China

20080226-Zhuang tatoo travel pod shane.jpg
Zhuang minority tattoo
Some older women have small beauty marks tattooed on their forehead.

In recent years it has become common for Americans---most visibly on pop stars and NBA basketball players who reveal a fair amount of upper body skin---to have Chinese characters tattooed on their arms and shoulders. Marcus Camby of the Denver Nuggets has one that reads the equivalent of ‘strive to be the best.” He had his made in 1996 and claims to be first NBA player to get a Chinese character tattoo. Larry Hughes of the Cleveland Cavaliers has a character that means “loyalty” emblazoned on a basketball. When a New Jersey Nets guard decided to get a tattoo to commemorate the birth of his son Jeff with a character that read “state of bliss” he checked with Yao Ming to make sure symbols meant what he was told by the tatto artist they meant.

Other people have not been so careful. Britney Spears got a Chinese character tattoo that she thought said “mysterious” but in reality it read ‘strange.” Marquis Daniels of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks thought his Chinese character tattoo were representations of his name but in actuality they said “healthy woman roof.” There is also a story of one man who got a tattoo thinking it said “one love” only to be informed by a clerk of Chinese decent at a Staples store that it really said “love hurts.”

Few of the American tattoos artists that make the tattoos know Chinese. They simply follow templates often of dubious origin. Hazni Smatter (www.hanzismatter.com ) is a website devoted to humorous tattoos. One tattoo listed on the site read “power piglet.” Another found on a woman’s lower back read “motherly beast blessing.”

The Chinese character tattoos craze began in earnest in the late 1980s and early 1990s and has it origins in the turn of the 20th century when sailors traveling to Asian ports picked up tattoos, sometimes with Chinese characters on them.

Fingernails and Jewelry in China

The custom of fingernail painting is believed to have originated in China before 3000 B.C. There is some evidence that varnishes, enamels and lacquers made from gum arabic, egg white, gelatin and beeswax, were applied fingernails in China in ancient times. Documents from the Chou Dynasty, dated to 600 B.C., said gold and silver were the colors for royal fingernails.

Men sometimes have long pinky nails. Mandarins traditionally had long fingernails to show they didn’t do manual work or physical activity.

Ancient Asian burial sites have yielded hairpins of bone, iron, bronze, silver and gold. In the old days many women favored gold jewelry because it was like an insurance policy that could be melted down for quick cash. These days women are buying more gemstones based on fashion and design. Unlike the United States where 80 percent of diamond jewelry purchases are made as gifts for someone else, many Chinese, especially women, like to buy jewelry for themselves.

For the past decade or so diamonds have been the gem favored by women who could afford them. Diamonds are still widely sought after for weddings and other traditional events. De Beers has run ads since the 1990s pushing the idea that no bride is complete without a diamond ring. These days many Chinese women are purchasing rubies, sapphires and other colored stones to express their individuality.

Image Sources: University of Washington Excepet Mao-era poster, Landsberger Posters http://www.iisg.nl/~landsberger/, dyed hair, Cgstock http://www.cgstock.com/china , modern sidewalk barber, Nolls China website http://www.paulnoll.com/China/index.html

; Wikicommons; Asia Obscura http://asiaobscura.com/ ;

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Page Top

© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated April 2010

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of country or topic discussed in the article. This constitutes 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you are the copyright owner and would like this content removed from factsanddetails.com, please contact me.