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The Changing Face of Chinese Beauty

They say "beauty is only skin deep," but maybe they are wrong. A glance at the surface can tell a person a lot about the suffering soul of women in Chinese society.

Early 20th century-Tell-tale Fringes

Before the May 4th Movement of 1919, women of any class could expect pretty much the same fate: to become part of a man's family, either as a wife or as a concubine.

Some more liberated ladies begin to explore an titleernative avenue: campus life. In their eagerness to carve out a clear distinction from their painted sisters, these women fashion an austere look: white blouse, black skirt and no cosmetics.

A genteel young lady of that time might smooth her hair with pomade, a long fringe plunging down the middle of the forehead in the shape of a peach leaf. More independent-minded women sport fringes at only half length, thus allowing their more expressive eyebrows to tell their liberated tale. To a woman of this era, life's possibilities seem quite rooted, with few real surprises. Different fringes reflect different levels of emancipation.

1920-Eyebrow Protest

Under pressure, most young women must finally abandon their American dream of study and accept their fate like a lady. Sometimes women would be confined to the home, only to see their husbands on rare occasions.

Unbearable idleness ushers in a new era of modern cosmetics: eyebrow plucking becomes the order of the day. The overlytrimmed brow does not rally agree with the traditional oval Chinese face, and hints at the disordered mind: Richer women spend hours in front of the mirror, torturing their eyebrows to ease the pain of their suppressed passions.

1930s-Hollywood Parade

Hooray for Hollywood. Movies function as the bible of beauty. Famous actresses, ladies and young girls from ordinary families all copy the same style, with the help of various eyebrow pencils, eye-lash-plucking tweezers and false eyelashes. Even gifted novelist Zhang Ailing cannot resist the temptation and willingly joins the popular fad of using imported dark-colored lipsticks she bought with her first roytitleies The lipsticks even made a comeback at the end of the 1990s.

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