Beauty

Chinese textbook illustrations have come under fire.

Suggestive Chinese textbook illustrations: An infiltration by the West?

Recently, there has been an uproar in China over illustrations in school textbooks, with comments that the characters drawn are “ugly”, with some depicted in suggestive poses and wearing questionable designs on clothing. Is this merely a question of aesthetics, or does the problem go deeper? Zaobao correspondent Yu Zeyuan looks into the issue.
Teo Han Wue's black-and-white print entitled Pan Shou's Calligraphy. (Photo: Teo Han Wue)

Must one read Chinese to appreciate Chinese calligraphy?

Teo Han Wue has always believed that one need not be literate in the Chinese language to appreciate calligraphy. He was heartened that many others seem to share his view, going by how well-received a photograph of Singaporean poet-calligrapher Pan Shou’s calligraphy was at his solo photography exhibition recently. Without him regaling them with tales of Pan Shou, they found their own delight appreciating this artform through an image of an image.
Chinese brand Three Squirrels came under fire for featuring "slit eyes" in a series of advertisements. (Internet)

Are ‘slit eyes’ an insult to China?

Recent advertisements in China featuring slit-eyed models have been criticised by netizens for “insulting” or “uglifying” the Chinese. But are Chinese people “unworthy” to be Chinese because they fit into so-called Western stereotypes of what Chinese people look like? Are detractors not buying into the very ideas that they want to reject, that Chinese people who look a certain way are “ugly”? Zaobao's China Desk examines the issue.
A couple poses during a pre-wedding photo session on the promenade on the Bund along the Huangpu River in Shanghai, China, on 24 September 2021. (Hector Retamal/AFP)

The crux of gender inequality is that men have always objectified women

Rather than addressing the symptoms of gender inequality such as restrictions on career prospects and freedom, says Cheng Pei-kai, we need to look at the deeper issue of the objectification of women. Chinese history and literature texts are replete with examples of this tendency. Mindful reading of the classics and an awareness that women are still objectified in modern life will go some way in changing mindsets. Whether in art or life, women are complex like anyone else and their characters and emotions need to be fleshed out before they can be truly seen for who they are.
Renowned Chinese philosopher Li Zehou. (Weibo)

Growing up (and old) with Chinese philosopher Li Zehou

Think of how the switching between languages, cultures and epistemologies can itself be an integral part of reading and writing, and extend this to a thinker’s broadest philosophical opus, in concepts, articulations and communications — that is the work of Chinese philosophy great Li Zehou (1930-2021), says former Singapore Art Museum director, Kwok Kian Chow.
A woman walks past a store of German fashion house Hugo Boss in Beijing, China, 27 March 2021. (Thomas Peter/File Photo/Reuters)

China's crackdown on pretty boys and temple temptresses: Why are Chinese women feeling targeted?

The Chinese authorities are not just clamping down on celebrities for their excesses or “unhealthy’ fandoms, but setting the ground rules for media portrayals of gender norms of appearance and behaviour. In particular, the "effeminate aesthetics" of male celebrities and female influencers marketing themselves in Chinese temples have come under attack. But why are Chinese women feeling targeted? Are these necessary actions to moderate the internet economy or just signs of an over-the-top paternalistic bent?
This photo taken on 20 March 2021 shows people viewing cherry blossoms in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, China. (STR/AFP)

Taiwanese art historian: Why we no longer find beauty in contemporary art

Art colleges today may be missing the point by teaching students various forms of aesthetics without offering a true path to beauty. An affinity for beauty — to see, appreciate, and ultimately to create it — is best honed keeping close to nature, says art historian Chiang Hsun. Qing dynasty calligrapher and painter Zheng Banqiao would have approved. After all, didn't he ask, “If people really love birds, why not plant more trees?”
The Larung Gar, a community in Sertar County of the Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, in Sichuan, China.

The ‘other’ Shangri-La: A journey through western Sichuan

Shivaji Das, author of travelogue “The ‘Other’ Shangri-la: Journeys through the Sino-Tibetan Frontier in Sichuan”, captures vignettes of life in the picturesque mountains of the Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in western Sichuan. At the end of his journey, he asks: Would Shangri-La become indistinguishable from Disneyland? Would Han cultural hegemony obliterate every other peculiarity once a mesh of high-speed trains, all-weather roads, and Weibo accounts spread out in the region? Or would an environment of mutual trust, understanding, and accommodation be established? 
The curator of the refreshed Wan Qing Yuan gallery showing the decal of the size of a pair of bound feet, a new feature at the Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall, Singapore, 12 January 2021. A new interactive element shows just how small the ideal Chinese woman’s feet were at a time when foot-binding reflected a family’s virtue and class. (SPH)

Foot-binding in ancient China: When women fought against their genes to be beautiful

A mischievous saying goes that there are no ugly women, only lazy women. The care one puts into one’s beauty regime determines the beauty standards she can attain. But in the days of ancient China, such effort went to extremes: young girls were forced to have their feet bound. After tremendous pain in pursuit of mignon dainty feet, they attained short yet ironically bulbous “golden lotuses”. Are such unreasonable demands of beauty foisted on women by men, or a shackle that women put on themselves? If it seems unimaginable that foot-binding continued in China for a thousand years, just think of the pain some go through in modern cosmetic surgery.