Beauty Standard in China, South Korea and the USA
- Pages: 6
- Word count: 1373
- Category: Plastic Surgery
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My research question is that what is the beauty standard in China, South Korea, and the USA, and how do they differ? There is a well-known phrase that “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” However, in today’s society, it has changed to, “Beauty is in the eye of whom society as a whole perceives as beautiful.” It seems as if society decides who is beautiful and who is not beautiful. Society holds high expectations for men and women to be called beautiful or handsome.
The idea of who and what is considered beautiful in a certain country, or society, is highly related to its culture. Regardless of whichever region in the world, there is a standardized beauty type that is considered desirable, especially for women. I believe my answer to the research question is that China and South Korea share similar beauty standards that differ from the American beauty standard. My reasoning is that there are cultural backgrounds that form ideal beauty type in a certain country.
To start with, I compared the three female celebrities that are generally considered beautiful in each country China, the United States, and South Korea. For China, I chose Fan Bingbing, the most popular actress in China. For the United States, I selected Amber Heard, who was chosen number one for having the most perfect face according to scientific facial mapping experiment that has been done to American celebrities. For South Korea, I chose Irene, who is often called “The Face Genius” by her fans, because her face has every feature that Korean ideal beauty type requires. There is an interview done with a Korean plastic surgeon who is famous for being good at both eyes and nose, and he mentioned that the most frequently brought wannabe photos of eyes and nose were of Irene’s.
Looking at their photos all together, I noticed that they look alike in a way that Fan Bingbing and Irene resemble the western figure rather than Asian figure. It is interesting to see how looking western, or Caucasian, which is of course not naturally common for Asians, is considered beautiful. Pale skin, big eyes, slim nose, narrow jawline, etc are some of the features that are considered beautiful in China and Korea, and these features are generally naturally found among Caucasians. However, the beauty standard in America leans towards the opposite. Tan skin is considered attractive rather than pale skin, and fit body with an hourglass figure has been the fitness trend, rather than a skinny body for a long time. Americans tend to find “healthy looking” beautiful while Chinese and Korean people find the skinnier the woman is, the better looking she is. The extreme hourglass figure that has been wannabe for many American women, for example, Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner, are often considered odd in Asian countries, since it is naturally almost impossible for Asian women to have such large hips. But instead, skinny women like Fan Bingbing is often more a desirable figure for Chinese and Korean women.
One of the typical and oriental must-have beauty standards in China, Korea, and many other Asian countries is pale skin, most extremely in China. It is a common sight in China to find Chinese women trying to protect their skin from the sun as much as possible, using umbrellas, long-sleeved clothing, and sunscreen. Having pale skin is an old Chinese beauty standard that stems from Ancient Chinese traditions. In ancient China, only the rich people had pale skin because they stayed indoors instead of working in the fields like the peasants did. Their pale skin was a proof that they were of a higher class. This leads to nowadays beauty standards in China.
Unlike Chinese girls, Western girls consider being tan as a beauty standard. Oftentimes being pale in western country means you cannot afford to go on vacation and spend time in the sun, because you are poor. Western girls prefer being tanned, and some even feel it makes them look slimmer. A pale skin is sometimes considered a sign of unhealthiness, something that Chinese or Korean people might not agree to.
Also, In recent years, there has been a large movement among Chinese women towards many European appearance norms. One part of this movement is the phenomenon of embodying the aesthetic of European beauty, which is natural because looking exotic is considered beautiful. To Asians, looking Caucasian is exotic, and thus beautiful. Deep-sculptured faces, especially the “double eyelid,” are unconditionally considered beautiful. It has been estimated that 40-60% of East Asians lack this upper eyelid crease, giving them a “single eyelid” appearance. However, this is not ideal when it comes to Chinese beauty. Because of this, many Chinese and Korean women go through a surgery that creates a fold in the upper eyelid giving them the “double eyelid”.
The plastic surgery industry has a multibillion-dollar industry in both China and Korea. It is often common to find Chinese women travel to Korea to get plastic surgery because Korean doctors are known to be the experts in this field. It is a common sight in Korea to find people walk around with band-aids and masks on their faces. There are even reality television shows that have themes of changing people’s lives through plastic surgery transformation.
Taking this beauty trend to a more extreme level, there are some odd beauty trends that have been viral in China these days. Some of these beauty trends include women being able to cover their waists with the A4 sized paper, to prove their thin waist, and covering their wrists with a paper bill to prove their thin wrist. The standard to be considered thin and beautiful in China and Korea is ridiculously extreme. These beauty trends might seem absurd to a lot of westerners. So what is the reasoning behind this extreme beauty standard? What cultural background might have led to this absurdity?
There have been studies that Confucianism played essential roles in the creation of Chinese beauty ideals. The emphasis that Confucian notions of female beauty place on the relationship between inner and outer beauty have influenced the creation of the Chinese female beauty ideal. Outer beauty was thought to represent virtuousness, talent, and other positive characteristics. In Chinese tradition, both the external sexual and inner moral dimensions determine the beauty of a woman. Thus, historically, the religious influences on Chinese beauty ideals closely tied outer beauty to inner beauty.
Chinese culture greatly values the appearance of women. This is evidenced in the business environment alike with the social environment. John Osburg, Director of Anthropology at the University of Rochester in his book, Anxious Wealth, explores the gender relations in Post Mao China, documenting the well-known disparity that exists between men and women. A theme of his work is that the objectification of women as a commonplace in Chinese culture creates the gender inequalities that are still prevalent today. He mentions, “The vast majority of entrepreneurs in post-Mao China are men. This is largely due to the fact that business networking requires entering spaces (such as nightclubs and saunas) and participating in activities (drinking, gambling, and sex consumption) that are not viewed as appropriate for “proper” women.
These networks constitute a key component of business and its the culture with the intent of pleasing men.” As Osburg details, they are meant to attract the businessmen, as there are also multiple red light districts around these areas. Prostitution in China further expands on these areas and this culture. In many cases, relationships between employees, co-workers, partners, etc. are forged through these settings. Based on these traditional practices, it can be stated that it is of greatest importance back then for women to be aesthetically pleasing.
I believe that this cultural setting of sexual objectification in China deeply affected by Confucian values led to today’s extreme beauty standards and Korean culture also deeply resembles this phenomenon since Korea has been affected by Confucian values, especially due to its close distance and long-term political relationship with China.
This answers my research question. We believe that China and Korea will share similarities when it comes to the beauty standard because of the cultural resemblance, while the US will be different from these countries due to the inherent cultural differences between the western culture and eastern Asian culture.