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Western vs Chinese Beauty Standards

We all know that Chinese girls have specific ideals of female beauty, but do foreigners share these ideals? Let’s bring face to face Westerners and Chinese beauty standards and see how they differ.

Western girls love to be tanned, Asian girls prefer white skin. We all know that Chinese girls have specific ideals of female beauty, but do foreigners share these ideals? Let’s explore the beauty standards in China and in the West and see to what extent they’re different.

Let’s compare how foreign girls and Chinese girls view and explore each criteria, starting with the eyes!

#1 Chinese beauty standards: Big eyes

Today, the Chinese think that girls with 大眼睛 dà yǎnjīng big eyes are the most beautiful, even more so if their eyes have a 双眼皮 shuāng yǎnpí double-fold eyelid. These modern Chinese beauty standards reveal a certain fascination with the West, with more and more Chinese girls resorting to cosmetic surgery to create those double-fold eyelids.
But do foreigners see the same features in Chinese girls? On the contrary, most foreigners seem to prefer Chinese girls with slanted, narrow eyes and eyebrows, In China, 细长眼睛 xì cháng yǎnjing slim eyes with 单眼皮 dān yǎn pí single-fold eyelids are seen as not beautiful at all, so it seems that when it comes to eye-shapes, Western and Chinese beauty standards don’t see eye to eye.

吕燕 Lǚ yàn

Chinese beauty standards: big eyes

This girl on the left, 吕燕 Lǚ yàn, is a 模特 mótè top model, who’s extremely famous in China. She’s often considered the most beautiful and popular Chinese model by foreigners. 吕燕 Lǚ yàn. Lots of westerners view her as a super beauty, maybe because of her typical 东方古典美 dōngfāng gǔdiǎn mě oriental looks. She looks exotic, and exotism often appeals, as it’s new and different.

However, the Chinese tend to think that she is kind of “ugly” and “strange”, especially because of her long and narrow eyes , her big lips and very large face. Her face is quite singular and unique and as such she doesn’t quite fit with the traditional Chinese beauty standards.

In the eyes of the Chinese society, the girl on the right in the picture is prettier, as her big eyes, are definitely the number one thing every Chinese girl wants.

Can you guess what the second criteria in the Chinese beauty standard is? White skin, of course. Let’s try to understand why.

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#2 Chinese Beauty Standards: White Skin

Some Chinese beauty standards are inspired by Western looks, but others definitely remain typically Oriental. 皮肤白皙 pífūbáixī white skin is one of them and is a must have in China. You’ll never see a girl buying spray tan in China, or voluntarily tanning herself in the sun unless she’s spent quite a lot of time in the West. On the contrary, Chinese girls try to protect their skin from the sun as much as possible! If you’ve been to China, you undoubtedly must have noticed how they wisely use umbrellas, jackets and sunscreen to shield their skin from the sun.

Having a white skin is an old Chinese beauty standard that stems from Ancient Chinese traditions. In ancient China, only the rich people had a white skin because they did not have to work in the fields like the peasants did. Their creamy, unblemished, white skin was proof they were of a different class. That’s why Chinese girls still nowadays want a white and smooth skin just like jade: to not be taken for a poor peasant. There’s even a Chinese expression praising white skin:

一白遮三丑 yībáizhēsānchǒu a white complexion is powerful enough to hide seven faults.

From this expression, it’s no hard to see that the Chinese traditional beauty standard equates beauty with white and smooth skin.

The Chinese girls’ obsession for white skin is such that the make-up industry sells in China products that are different from the Western world, where tanning is an obsession. In China, you’ll easily find face a moisturizer or with whitener agents in it and tons of beauty products that whiten your skin. In fact, finding one without may be harder to find.

Unlike Chinese girls, Western girls think that being tanned is a beauty standard. Being tanned used to mean you couldn’t afford to go on vacation and spend time in the sun, because you were rich. Nowadays, Western girls often feel prettier tanned, and some feel it makes them look slimmer. A very white skin is often considered sign of poor health, something that might surprise the Chinese the first time they come to a Western country.

孙俪 Sūnlì

Chinese beauty standards: the white skin

孙俪 Sūnlì, on the left, is a Chinese actress. She’s considered as the Queen of television by the Chinese. This beautiful woman is barely known by the foreigners, but I’m pretty sure all Westerns would agree on her beauty. As you can see, 孙俪 Sūnlì is the perfect representation of the white skin beauty standard, unlike the young lady on the right of the picture. Sūnlì’s skin is as white as the snow and Chinese girls fancy her so much for that.

The white skin ideal can certainly be the weirdest Chinese beauty standard for westerners as they prefer being tanned than as pale as white jade. Let’s move on the next beauty ideal every Chinese girl wants to have: the right face shape according to the Chinese beauty standards.

#3 Chinese beauty standards: Face shape

In Chinese, interestingly enough, there are lots of words to describe the 脸型 liǎnxín shape of a face, a lot more than the traditional square, oval, round and triangle face shapes in the West. If anything, that’s an indication of how seriously the Chinese take face shapes. Two specific shapes are at the top of beauty ideals:

  • 瓜子脸 guāzǐliǎn melon seed face
  • 鹅蛋脸 é’dànliǎn goose egg face

What a yummy description for face shapes! If they don’t seem very clear for you, just imagine a face that has the same shape as a melon seed or a goose egg.

Chinese beauty standards: the v-shaped face

See? The face must have a very thin chin and jawline, shaped like a V.

Not everyone is born with a melon seed face or a goose egg face and nowadays, many girls even go through cosmetic surgery to change the shape of their face. The worst face shape a Chinese girl can have according to Chinese beauty standards, is a 国字脸 guózìliǎn square face. A square face is considered very manly.
Generally, Chinese girls want to have an oval face instead of a prominent jawline, as its viewed as more feminine, delicate and cute
As for westerners, their ideal face shape is kind of different. Even if the oval-shaped face is very popular, according to a survey, the most attractive face for a girl is…. the square face! You didn’t see that coming, am I wrong? The square face is sometimes considered the most attractive since the wide jawline enhances the look and the smile. So square faces and oval faces, here’s your moment of glory!

Let’s look at Gong Li, obviously she is a “goose egg face”.

巩俐 Gǒnglì

Chinese beauty standards: the face shape

I bet you guys know this beautiful Chinese woman on the left, 巩俐 Gong Li, the famous Chinese actress which was also awarded the “World’s most beautiful Oriental woman” title. She’s had a great impact as a Chinese actress in the movie industry. Gong Li is also the first Chinese actress to win an award in the Venice Film Festival as well as the first Chinese ambassador of the French cosmetics brand L’Oreal.
Talk about a trailblazer!. As you can see, she has a goose egg face, she represents the Chinese ideals of female beauty and lots of westerners think she’s pretty as well.

Now that you know everything about the face standards in China, let’s move to the body types! Can you guess what the most wanted body shape in China and all over the world is?

#4 Chinese beauty standards: slim body

Being |zh zh=”苗条” py=”miáotiáo” en=”slim”] or shòu thin is something that most of the Chinese girls want. Girls will, actually, be judged pretty or not according to their weight and figure as it is part of Chinese beauty standards.

As the Chinese say:

以瘦为美 yǐ shòu wéi měi to regard slender figures as beauty

Lots of girls barely eat things in order to lose weight and be in shape. The online fads of comparing your waist to a A4 sheet of paper, or of seeing if you were able to wrap your hands around your waist attest to how being slim can be an obsession in China. It’s incredible!
In the Western world, we also tend to like people that are slim. But curvy women are also part of the standards, depending on where the curves are. Bosoms and behinds have to be plump, but the waist must be very thin. The ideal body for some westerners, unfortunately, remains Barbie’s, the famous doll, despite its unrealistic proportions.

范冰冰 Fàn Bīngbīng

Chinese beauty standards: the slim body

I’m not exaggerating when I say that 范冰冰 Fan Bingbing is the most popular Chinese actress now. She’s a real fashion icon in China. Both westerners and Chinese agree on her beauty. Her body shape is very slim and her features are very delicate and thin. Fan Bingbing is very famous in the cinema industry as she acted in many popular movies such as the blockbuster X-men: Days of Future Past (2014).

Final words

As you see, Chinese beauty standards are very different from Western ideals of female beauty, to the point of sometimes even being complete opposites. As ties continue to grow between China and the West, it’ll be interesting to see how these beauty standards evolve. One thing’s for sure, by exploring every criteria that is required of you to fit the Chinese beauty standard, I can tell that these beauty standards probably put a lot of pressure on girls.

The truth is that no matter what you look like, how close or far you have to beauty standards, you just need to remember that you’re perfect the way you are. Everyone has their own little flaws. Besides, what you see as a physical “flaw”, might be appealing to others. I mean, that’s what make us all different, special and unique. So embrace how you look and be proud of who you are.

What do you think about it? Do you agree with all these beauty ideals? Do you agree more with the Western or the Chinese beauty standards? Let us know!

The Nincha Team

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  • Matthias B Schönborn - May 14, 2016 reply

    I love your concluding paragraph!

    The Nincha Team - May 20, 2016 reply

    Thank you Matthias! We felt it was important to show that no matter what the beauty standards are around you, we should all accept ourselves the way we. With our flaws and qualities. Had you heard of these Chinese beauty criteria before?

  • d - August 8, 2016 reply

    just a quick note, the second picture of Fan Bing Bing depicting her body type is actually of another actress with a similar name, Li Bing Bing

    Ninchanese - August 8, 2016 reply

    Oh, well spotted! We’ll check ad make changes as needed asap. Thanks!

    The Nincha Team - August 8, 2016 reply

    Oh, well spotted! Looks like the very similar names caused us to mix up the Bing Bings! We’ll update as needed asap. Thanks, D!

  • Flour And Flower - September 26, 2016 reply

    Sadly the last photograph is not Fan Bing Bing but Li Bing Bing.

  • Reed S - May 20, 2017 reply

    Western beauty standards are much broader than the Asian standard. They include all races and types. They include a variety of skin tones, face shapes, eye shapes, and body types. Tall, short, big, small, curves, athletic, or skinny, there is a specific niche that every woman attracts. Many western men prefer a girl who looks innocent like a young Zooey Deschanel, whereas some like a sexy, less innocent looking woman like Sophia Vergara. There is no one type of beauty here.

    J. Mac - September 20, 2017 reply

    I agree w this; the US has absorbed a myriad of aesthetics relative to race. The features of a beautiful African American are very different than a beautiful Chinese American; but if each in their own right fit into their respective aesthetic, then widely divergent features are equally beautiful.

    When aesthetic boundaries are crossed in the US, this is usually met with great resistance – e.g., a White woman that has dreadlocks works only if the woman is at the peak of aesthetic beauty standards applied to White Americans first; the hairstyle is then just an eccentricity.

    So I would say the West, especially the US, has absorbed a lot of cultural aesthetics; however, there are overriding trends. These include a racially relative lighter skin, an obsession with being thin, breast size that exceeds an expected proportionally thin ideal (most men outright reject a partner’s desire for breast reduction surgery – it’s a mortal sin socially), perfect white teeth, etc.

    Similar demands for male aesthetic ideals are building steam as well – these lack the clarity applied to women, but trends are emerging that will be psychologically just as damaging for men to attempt to achieve as has been the norm for women for some time. The rise of body dysmorphic disorders, anorexia, bulimia, etc., with males has been increasing over the past decade or so. Makeup for men is becoming real & will arrive in the next 10-15yrs as mainstream, albeit different than what is appropriate for women.

    Cindy - October 1, 2017 reply

    Wtf this shit American fockn Chinese Really!
    Anyhow Have youse heard of aka Maori from NZ and roots are from Taiwan well we naturally have our own southwestern looks exactly like Brazilian girls and Orient Polynesians

    J. Mac - October 7, 2017 reply

    Quite well said; thank you. American Chinese is indeed absurd; fortunately I didn’t assert such a thing. I did, however, say Chinese American. One implies a distinct subgroup of race; the other refers to a people that reside within a nation. You have erred by misattribution; one’s nation is not the same as one’s race.

    LR - January 2, 2018 reply

    Latinas, mixed race women, and Blacks are considered less innocent looking because of their curves.

    wei - January 26, 2018 reply

    “Western beauty standards are much broader than the Asian standard.”, yes, otherwise we would be see tens of Millions “Michael Jackson” walk on the street,

    Jay David - February 2, 2018 reply

    Eeehh.. I wouldn’t necessarily agree.. Western beauty standards are still largely European… It’s just that it’s integrated other features into the mix.. Like bigger lips, breast, and butts, and even curly.. But at the end of the day those features are still being more wanted on “White” women..

    wei - April 10, 2018 reply

    Please forward your statement to S Korean, they really need it.

  • Ahaha - August 13, 2017 reply

    You forgot to mention the tall nose bridge that asians commonly don’t have and would go under the knife to acquire.

    wei - January 26, 2018 reply

    Correction, should be Korean would go under the knife to acquire (Chinese among least would choose Knife option, beside the tall nose in Chinese version is not as tall in western version.).

  • Annie Luo - October 4, 2017 reply

    Hello Nincha! I was wondering if you guys can send me some information on your blog, such as author names or sources! I’m doing my IB Personal Project on Asian Beauty Standards, and I’d like to use your information as a resource. But, “Nincha Team” is not enough reliability according to my criterion, so I might need some info… if it’s okay with you guys, thank you very much!

    The Nincha Team - October 4, 2017 reply

    Hi there Annie! Believe you’ll find all the info you need here: 🙂

  • Mei Mei - October 14, 2017 reply

    Actually, the left pic on #4 is Li Bingbing, not Fan Bingbing~~~

  • Blue Lily - January 21, 2018 reply

    Well then, I guess I prefer Chinese standards…

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  • McAllister Pulswaithe - February 26, 2018 reply

    Frankly, Westerners find most Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese to be quite ugly. Especially when they loudly speak their own language in a Western country. The Chinese are particularly bad, as they appear to be completely oblivious to how offensive they are. They are small and have body types that appear to have arrested in early adolescence.

    Leah Cecil - July 29, 2018 reply

    How racist… There are both beautiful and ugly people in all races. Apparently you’re the ugly one.

    Favour - January 24, 2019 reply

    I agree with you but nobody is ugly everyone is beautiful in their own way

    Alyssa C. - May 28, 2019 reply

    Really? This is so racist and rude. You blame Chinese for talking out loud and being rude, do you know how rude and offensive you are with this message and Chinese are reading it? You probably don’t know you are. What’s wrong with our body? This is so stereotype, there are many different Chinese with different body shapes, and there’s nothing wrong with being short, there are short white girls as well. I know there are some Chinese traveling all over the world who are loud and rude, we who live in China thinks they are very rude as well. They are mostly of the older generation, you cannot blame the whole population for the action of a few, just like you can’t blame all the Germans in the world for the actions of Hitler and the Nazi. I have plenty of Western friends who doesn’t find Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese to be ugly. But I know they would find you ugly.

    mcracist pullmywaisteofspace - July 2, 2019 reply

    but statistics show that the most desired race for women in the world is asian.

  • Syd - March 6, 2018 reply

    The last picture of FAN Bingbing was not her. It was LI Bingbing, another Chinese actress. Lol.

  • Devona - August 19, 2018 reply

    I think it’s a bit offensive that a picture of Li Bingbing was put up with Fan Bingbing’s name. The first picture with her name on it is her, but the second picture of ‘her’ isn’t.

  • Potato - August 28, 2018 reply

    As a Chinese Canadian, I quite dislike being in my position. I feel as though Chinese parents and relatives care more about their expectations for you more than your feelings. I can’t say the same for other Asian families, but it’s difficult for everyone to get spat on for not being beautiful even though it’s not something you can control. Especially if the criticism is from your family.
    That was just my thought on Asian beauty standards. I really liked this article, especially the part about the big eyes.

  • Katy wokonde - January 8, 2019 reply

    I asked my friend what type of woman they like many said slim curvy, with large butts, big boobs with a beautifully tanned skin. I said what about Asian woman, they always say their body type is unattractive, and they look sick with pale skin. I asked at least five male friends of mine. But interesting enough they find biracial Asian (black and asian) attractive. In my humble opinion I feel like a woman is beautiful when she accepts whatever skin complexion she was born with, works out, got some curves, and dresses well.

  • Andriy - February 24, 2019 reply

    On the last photo is Li Bingbing, not Fan Bingbing.

  • Robin Bryant - June 10, 2019 reply

    Although I admire different figure types and skin tones, I gotta agree w/the Chinese beauty standards here! Maybe it has something to do w/me being a portrait artist. I like large eyes and delicate classic features.

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