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When comparing Chinese and Western beauty standards, it all comes down to what is seen as desirable and ideal in society. 

If you are someone with a western background visiting China, you might notice that people view beauty differently. Here are four beauty conceptions where China and the West differ.

1. Skin Tone: Pale vs. Tan

I have always noticed that Chinese women try to stay out of the sun. In China, being pale is very desirable

In China, a creamy complexion points to having a sheltered lifestyle. This is a symbol of class: it shows that this person has no need to work under the hot sun. 

You may even see Chinese women sheltering under umbrellas to hide from the sun. The women in my own family never forget to bring an umbrella out on a sunny day.

This ideology is also seen in everyday phrases. For example, 一白遮三丑 (yī bái zhē sān chǒu) translates to "white skin covers many flaws" and 白富美 (bái fù měi) means "white, rich and beautiful.”


In contrast, Westerners want to be tan all year round. Having tan skin proves that a person exercises and has free time to engage in activities. Well, at least it did before spray tans existed.

In America, you can see tanning stores open throughout the year. This easy access to a darker complexion makes it convenient to catch a tan.

In fact, a recent survey suggests that 72% of Americans think that having a tan is attractive. However, there are health risks when it comes to tanning. One indoor tan session can increase the risk of skin cancer.

2. Body Type: Slim vs. Curvy

In China today, having a thin body type is the ultimate goal.  A thin frame is the main focus, while having delicate bone structure, long and slim legs, and a tiny wait is also important.

Western standards emphasize fitness and curviness. Westerners prefer to have low body fat and tight muscle while also having pronounced curves. 

With the rise of body positivity in the West, the preference for a curvy figure is more relevant than ever. Even in plastic surgery, butt implants are now one of the most popular procedures.

3. Pretty Face: Shape vs. Symmetry

Like Chinese standards for the body, it won't come as a surprise that having a slim V-shaped face is beautiful. A V-shaped face features a delicate jawline that ends in a pointy chin: 鹅蛋脸 (é'dànlian) also known as a goose face

A square face shape is the most unattractive face shape for a woman to have in China as it's considered very manly.

Comparing Chinese and Western beauty standards, the Western standards for a perfect face lies in symmetry. Faces that are symmetrical are often found to be more attractive than those that are not. 

In a symmetrical face, both the left and right sides of the face have similar proportions. This biological-based standard of beauty is desired regardless of gender.

4. Attitude: Cute vs. Sexy

Consider all the factors listed above from skin tone and body shape to face shape. You can see that the key difference between these two cultures is behavior and attitude. 

The preference for pale skin, thin body frames and a slender face points to innocent beauty. 

Western beauty seems to go in the opposite direction. Having tan skin, curvy bodies and a symmetrical face shape displays sex appeal. 

Chinese standards are in favor of innocent beauty, while Western standards seek sensuality.

These differences in beauty standards only prove that beauty comes in many shapes and forms. No matter the culture, there is only room for these standards to be more inclusive.


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Abigail Heng

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