As we look at the activities of young Chinese online, and in particular their habits when using Social Networking Sites, it is quite apparent that photographs form the primary means of social currency. This is by no means exclusive to China but what is interesting is the means by which, girls in particular, maintain and elevate their online social status on sites such as P1 and Kaixin.
In order to maintain a high level of portrayed beauty, the process of doctoring photos has led to an increased level of ‘editorial control’. Blemishes erased. Contrast heightened = whiter skin. And for the more Photo Shop savvy girls, eye enlargement. These girls are all Adobe experts. Now in the online world this is one thing, if nothing else it gives rise to a whole generation of hugely proficient ‘photoshoppers’. However, keeping up with these ‘appearances’ offline means investing a lot of time in more traditional methods of cosmetics.
Check out this video from a popular Taiwanese chat show. Here are two popular ‘internet models’ who reveal the truth behind their beauty. As we always maintain, the youth and pop culture of Taiwan has a huge influence to what happens and will happen with young Chinese in the mainland.
Leon, our resident ‘shuai-ge’ says “These days, girls are too good at make-up! I don’t just want a girl who can make herself look good, I want a natural beauty.” As girls employ ever more proficient means to maintain their standard of beauty, it’s interesting to see which future path this natural vs. contrived standard of beauty debate will lead to. How long will young Chinese girls view beauty as a face fully made-up? Will Chinese guys create a new shift by becoming more discerning in their selection of girls, looking for girls who are more ‘正’ or straightforward beauties?
Embracing ‘Korean’ Methods of Beautification
Perhaps, as a result of the ‘hallyu’ (Korean Wave) or perhaps just a natural conclusion of a furious ‘beauty economy,’ we are sensing a rising surge in cosmetic surgery. In Korea, the process of blepharoplasty (largely the process of changing single eye-lids into double eyelids and rhinoplasty (nose job) have become so commonplace that cosmetic surgeries are handily labeled on the subway map in plastic surgery mecca of Apgujeong in Seoul.
Back in China, what is worrying about this trend is the focus it places on the definition of beauty. As more and more girls rush to embrace this new standard of beauty, it emphasizes ‘economic and social gains’ rather than a pure concept of ‘beauty.’ Thus, beautification alternatives such as plastic surgery are becoming more and more necessary for girls to ‘stand out’ amongst waves of equally qualified job seekers.
Traditional Perceptions of Chinese Beauty
In Chinese there is a typical Confucian notion that “your body is a gift from your parents”. Unfortunately, the modern day beauty standards are constructing an impossible standard of beauty, one that is furthermore being propagated by the false beautification happening online!
Will the standard of Chinese beauty continue to tilt towards the “manufactured beauties” in favor of the 正 ‘sweet girl’ types? Or will we see a more divergent twist in this type of beauty like the ‘Ganguro’ girls during Harajuku’s wild nineties sub-societal scene?
Either way, traditional and non-traditional Chinese measures of beauty are constantly shifting, creating an interesting scenario in China’s cosmetic landscape.
enovate is an insights and design firm based in Shanghai. We publish daily insights and develop creative solutions for China’s youth market. Visit enovate’s website for more information.