Makeup has a long history in China. 

It dates back to as early as the Spring and Autumn period around 770 B.C. to 476 B.C. 

Even in ancient times, both women and men used makeup to enhance their features. They also used it to differentiate themselves between the social classes. 

Let’s take a look at a typical makeup routine in ancient China.

  1. 1 Applying powder: 敷粉 (Fū fěn)

    Ancient Chinese women putting on makeup.Having a fair complexion was the way to go in ancient China. Even nowadays, having fair skin is considered extremely beautiful

    This beauty standard stems from the idea that fair skin equates to not having to work outside in the scorching sun. It also means you are very wealthy because you don’t have to work at all. 

    Therefore, in ancient China, women would grind rice into an extremely fine powder and whiten their faces with it. 

    Over time, having smooth and powdered skin also became a fashion statement and was highly coveted. 

  2. 2 Applying rouge: 涂胭脂 (tú yānzhī)

    Women loved using rouge to give a healthy rosy glow to their skin. 

    They would extract the juices from red and blue flowers to make rouge. It was either in powder or cream form.

    For a cream rouge, they would add in animal fat and beeswax. For a powder rouge, they would dry and blend flowers to make a powder. 

    Women would put blush under their eyes, on the apples of their cheeks and other areas of their faces.

  3. 3 Painting eyebrows: 描黛眉 (miáo dài méi)

    The different kinds of eyebrow styles in ancient China.For the ladies of ancient China, eyebrows framed the face by balancing the style they were going for. 

    Eyebrow shapes and styles went through elaborate changes throughout Chinese history. 

    The styles went from thin lined eyebrows to thick bushy eyebrows to shaved eyebrows. There was a plethora of styles women could choose from. 

    They believed eyebrows were linked to their fate. 

    In fact, this facial feature was so important that the Tang Dynasty emperor Xuanzong wrote a book called “十眉图” (Shí Méi Tú) explaining ten different eyebrow patterns. 

    Eyebrow shapes were based on natural objects such as leaves and flower petals. 

  4. 4 Applying a lip color: 涂唇脂 (tú chún zhī)

    The different kinds of lip makeup styles.Women in ancient China would color their lips almost daily. Although the eyebrows received a lot of attention, the lips were also highly emphasized as well.

    Lipsticks in ancient China were made with red pigments and minerals such as vermillion and animal fat. They gave a healthy color to the lips and sealed and protected this delicate facial feature from dry winds. 

    Lip makeup styles were varied as well. 

    Women would almost always prefer to color their lips smaller than usual. This is because having a smaller lip in proportion to the rest of the face was considered beautiful. 

    There is even an idiom that describes this kind of lip: 樱桃小嘴 (yīngtáo xiǎo zuǐ). 

    樱桃小嘴 means cherry-like lips; it is small, round and red like a cherry. 

  5. 5 Adding facial ornaments: 贴花钿和点面厣 (tiē huā diàn hé diǎn miàn yǎn)

    Lastly, many women would put on face ornaments such as pearls, flower petals and other facial paintings for decoration. 

    These styles of makeup and facial ornaments were mostly worn by ladies of affluent families. 

    Beauty standards are always going through changes. Something that is beautiful now may not be considered beautiful ten years later. 

    Makeup should be used to enhance one’s beauty rather than hide one’s features. 

    Would you try out any ancient Chinese makeup style? 


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Amie Lin

Amie Lin is currently attending Hunter College double majoring in Mandarin and Media Studies. She is such a foodie and loves Chinese dramas.
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